Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 25th May 2013
Director: Charlie Young
Produced by: Tsui Hark
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Gwei Lun Mei, Chang Chen, Xia Yu, Liu Kai Chi, Qin Hailu, Wan Qian, Pat Ha
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With the hot trend of female actress turning on the directing seat, Charlie Young is the latest of the lot to take up directing duties. In fact, before going into the film, I was more anticipated to witness how Young would go as a director in the cut throat Hong Kong industry. The result is that “CHRISTMAS ROSE” manages to pull of a difficult subject matter of questioning and pursuing of one’s ideal of justice and what a smashing finale it is. Certainly, “CHRISTMAS ROSE” is not without flaws, with some scenes overtly explaining more than required and at times the film even drags a little and suffers from some poor voice dubbing of Taiwanese and Mainland actors, but by the end of the film, Young is able to take on the audience and fully engrossed into affecting emotions. It is a commendable effort from the first time director and a much needed welcome to a cinema industry that always lack the female counterpart. In turn, “CHRISTMAS ROSE” may not actually posses any new ideas or form, but it manages to engross the audience at the right moment and somehow coming up with something to say about the idealistic world of justice within a complicated world.
Aaron Kwok headlines in a difficult role about lawyer whose idealistic principles of justice is at a loggerhead with his legal profession. As per Kwok recent trend, he is spot on in terms of his intense acting and his pursue for the answer of justice is worthy of admiration. Kwok is now of the better character actors in Hong Kong and his intensity he brings to the role is crucial in sustaining the audience attention and ultimately the success of the film. I extremely liked how handles the film few sequences as he looked at tie that his father gave him, it showed maturity in Kwok’s acting and at the same time creating an affecting and engaging performance overall.
Gwei Lun Mei is always natural and have proven in recent years to be an extremely versatile actress. Gwei shines in her role as the disable girl who is the victim of a doctor/patient molest and sexual assault. Gwei as proven in “Girlfriend*Boyfriend” is able to grow into a complex and multi-dimensional character. Many other actresses would have been cheesy in the scene where she slowly turns into a bitter-sweet and cunning smile. Despite all the greatest, Gwei is constantly hampered by poor Cantonese voice dubbing, which in some ways disintegrate the maximum impact it could have on the audience. Chang Chen is an expert in providing more than the character requires and in a nothing more than glorified cameo, he is able to hide his true image and feelings, which in turns help to further the suspense of the film. Liu Kai Chi is always wonderful and while his make up seems more “Bullet Vanishes” style, he still manages to impress as the know it all legal sidekick.
All in all, “CHRISTMAS ROSE” is a more than adequate first time directorial effort. It details a number of crucial and burning issues about making a difference, pursuing a principle and persisting with finding the truth in the justice and legal system. In complicated world that we live in nowadays, these kind of unwritten code and rules are rare and mostly buried within the legal system. Young and her team tries hard to challenge this notion and at the end succeeds in touching the audience by simply overwhelming them with some fitting dialogue from Aaron Kwok and a wonderful final turn from Gwei Lun Mei. It is by no means an easy effort, but somehow, Charlie Young with help of some truly veteran of Hong Kong cinema including Tsui Hark, Jacob Cheung, Oxide Pang and many others, is able to present the Hong Kong audience with a good film that manages to sustain its message till the very end. Ending well has always been a flaw and rarity in Hong Kong cinema and for that alone, Ms Charlie Yeung has certainly exceeded expectations as the current reviewer looks forward to what else she has to be offer. This is a highly commendable effort and most certainly worth a look at. (Neo 2013)
I rated it 8/10