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Chinese language cinema

Film review: The Moment – Wong Kwok-fai conjures four Hong Kong stories of reconciliation

There is an unnaturalness to the situations in The Moment that makes this film more a manipulative exercise than a genuine heart-warmer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 5:50pm

2.5 stars

The heart of Wong Kwok-fai – best known for directing HKTV’s well-received political drama series The Election – is in the right place. It’s a shame that the first-time feature director of The Moment doesn’t have a screenplay compelling enough to transcend his film’s very corny ambition: to remind audiences of the importance of love and harmony in Hong Kong’s increasingly hostile society.

Loosely connected by the blatantly symbolic location of one of its storylines, a vintage photography studio in an old building slated for redevelopment, the film weaves together four thinly sketched stories that inevitably build towards the reconciliation of their respective pair of protagonists.

At the helm of the studio is the solitary Chan Kar-fai (Gordon Lam Ka-tung), a mediocre photographer who has reluctantly taken over his ailing father’s business. Once his primary school buddy Lee Chi-kin (Poon Chan-leung) shows up as an estate agent desperate to secure the property, the two are locked in a contentious exchange that subsequently pushes them both to reflect on how their lives went wrong.

Also in a mess is the trendy webcast host Lok (Eric Suen Yiu-wai). An investment expert who remains unattached into his 40s, his playboy lifestyle is disrupted by a young beauty (Carman Kong Ka-man) he picks up at a club, who surprisingly declares herself to be his daughter from an affair 20 years ago. With handcuffs and tasers ready, the girl proceeds to confine Lok in his own apartment.

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Less dramatic, but no less difficult, is the conundrum faced by long-time lovers Yu Wai-man and Monica Lo (played by real-life married couple Eric Kwok Wai-leung and Grace Ip Pui-man), who plunge into soul-searching mode after one of them proposes marriage. To this writer, it’s a mystery how Monica developed her jitters, and how Wai-man remained oblivious to it.

The blandest story of the lot revolves around the emerging actors Hin (Kelvin Kwan Cho-yiu) and Wing (Dada Chan Ching), who, despite having gone through an acrimonious breakup after a long relationship, must continue to play an item on an ongoing film project. Cue the obligatory saccharine flashbacks, a few of which involve the most banal act of chasing after an ice-cream van.

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While Wong’s effort to capture the small conflicts between friends, lovers and family is laudable, there is an artificiality to the situations that renders this more a manipulative exercise than a genuine heart-warmer. As a crude verdict, one could even argue that Happiness – the new film by another debutant director, Andy Lo Yiu-fai – is the human drama that The Moment tries to be, and marginally fails.

The Moment opens on September 15

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