The Stolen Years 被偷走的那五年 (2013) – Hong Kong / China / Taiwan

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 27th August 2013

Directed by: Barbara Wong (黃真真)
Script: Barbara Wong, Silver Hau, Daryl To, Skipper Cheng.
Photography: Chen Cheng.
Editing: Kwong Chi-leung.
Music: Henry Lai.
Production design: Kuo Chih-ta.
Art direction: Jackal Ning.
Costumes: Tai Chia-yuan.
Sound: Tu Duu-chih, Kuo Li-chi.

Cast: Bai Baihe (He Man/Mann), Joseph Chang (Xie Yu), Ken Lin (Danny), Amber An (Lily), Queenie Tai (He Man’s elder sister), Tse Kwan-ho (Philip, Hsieh Yu’s boss), Christine Fan (He Man’s old friend), Deng Ziyi (He Man’s elder sister), Sky Wu, Fan Kuang-yao.

Film Distributed by Golden Scene Hong Kong
In cinemas Hong Kong from 15 September 2013.

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Director Barbara Wong have been out of sorts recently (“The Allure of Tears”), but kindly return to the sort of form that created her career best effort to date, “Break Up Club”. In “The Stolen Years”, Wong goes back to what she does best, displaying manners of realism and adding a third dimension to her work. With the duo of Joseph Chang (who have starred in his fair share of gay roles in recent years) and the current “it” girl at the moment, Bai Baihe (“The Love Contract”) in the helm, there is plenty of acting abilities, wonderful chemistry and two actors at their prime. I have always commented that one of the key ingredient of a romantic drama is the chemistry between the co-stars and Chang and Baihe are an instant match and plays off each other more than convincingly.

The story of a girl losing memory and eventually falling to a brain tumor is nothing new, but director Barbara Wong is able to inject new life into the film, while at the same time engaging the audience to care for the characters and their eventual outcome. Joesph Chang is clearly one of the rising stars of Taiwanese cinema and having been around for a decade, mostly known for his acclaimed gay roles, most notably GF*BF (2012) last summer is again terrific as the corporate rising executive coming to terms with his ex-wife losing her memory and rekindling an unlikely romance. While the premise may seem far fetched, both actors are adequately grounded in their roles and never going over-the-top till the extravagant finale. Likewise, Bai Baihe is at her most comfort zone as the vulnerable girl who has fallen into the realm of life and death. Baihe is easy on the eyes and one can seamlessly sympathizes with her situation and root for her in the process. This in turn assists in the proceedings and the emotive finale that we all expected to happen.

All in all, “The Stolen Years” may not be a cinematic classic and then again in the tried and true romantic melodrama, what can really qualify as one. The good news is that Wong is clearly back in form and that is already a cause for celebration. While it does not feel as realistic as say her best works (“Break Up Club”, this is an easy film to take as it engages without being pretentious and emotes without extravagance. With good leading performances from both actors, the audience automatically cares for their relationship, hardships, the sickness, the trials and everything that life throw at them. What I also admire is the depth that Wong goes into exploring the notion of memory loss and the aftermath effects that goes along with it. In essence, “The Stolen Years” is not cinematic gold, but it is probably as good as it gets nowadays. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

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