HKAFF: A Complicated Story 一個複雜故事 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 30th October 2013

Starring: 朱芷瑩 Jacqueline Zhu, 張學友 Jacky Cheung, 車婉婉 Stephanie Che, 子義 Zi Yi, 葉德嫻 Deannie Ip, 盧海鵬 Lo Hoi-pang
Produced by: Johnnie To, Shu Kei
Directed by: 周冠威 Kiwi Chow

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013

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“A Complicated Story” does contains an interesting premises about the issue of surrogate mothers, but unfortunately the film suffers from overall awful pacing issues. The first two acts goes extremely well in a slow, but equally engaging manner where character development and happenings are a core focus. However, all that potential and build up is essentially ruined by a rather rushed final act that seems to race to the finish line, the effect is like a Ferrari speeding along the congested traffic. In other words, it is essentially against the flow of things. I understand that producer Johnnie To, tried to distant himself from being involved in this project, whether to give youth a chance or whatever, I still believe that with more of his experience and influence, the film may well have ended a better product.

The film also suffers from an uninteresting leading performance from Taiwanese actress Jacqueline Zhu (“Lust, Caution”) who is often blank faced when required to be searching for emotions. She lacks charisma, charm or the looks of an actress to carry the film. Especially considering how many Johnnie To’s cast members makes supporting appearances. In spite of this, the star of the show is really Stephanie Che. Che simply steals the show in her first leading role after a long career playing second fiddles. Jacky Cheung also makes a welcoming appear and add some much needed star power to the film. However, his involve seem rather novel and he is never in character. In fact, there are times, when the audience feel as though he is appearing as Jacky Cheung rather than the character he is meant to be playing. While Zi Yi (“Blind Detective”) is adequate, but at times his overacting is almost to the point of bothersome and annoyance. Others are given less than enough screen time namely the ever dependable Lo Hoi-pang as the doctor and the much missed John Sham as the lawyer’s boss. Deanie Ip is wonderful in her little role as inspiring beach bar owner who gives some words of wisdom along the way.

Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts graduate student and first time director Kiwi Chow manages to show glimpses of potential, but by the end of the film, one just cannot help, but feel dissatisfy. Chow’s debut feature work possess enough quality for him to build on and will probably have a bright future ahead. However, in many ways, this is a missed opportunity. It is a chance for mainstream and industry people to work closely with aspiring filmmakers and with the quality of people behind the scenes, one would have thought that they would at the very least get the pacing right. The film best moments lies when Stephanie Che tells her life story in the car and provides the audience with a much needed emotional moment, but from then all, its all down hill from there. This kind of films, needs to be inspiring, touching and perhaps refreshing. Instead, what we get is another mediocre film that runs riot across Hong Kong cinema. Not to mention, there is also the issue of the director’s idea to change the original story character from a local Hong Kong person to a Mainland Chinese character. I would have though a film like this does not need to please the Mainland market, should be used to develop local Hong Kong talents. In casting a blank faced actress, Chow has effectively wasted a rare opportunity for a Hong Kong up and coming actress to shine on the big stage. As a big supporter of the local Hong Kong cinema, we all know that in most co-productions with China, the directors no longer get to choose the actress, as it needs to meet the Mainland quota requirements. Therefore, it is almost paramount that we try to nurture the next Maggie Cheung, rather than the next Zhang Zi Yi. Still, “A Complicated Story” is not a bad film, it is just far too average to stand above the current market. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 6/10

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