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Chinese language cinema

Film review: Go Away Mr Tumour – Bai Baihe in buoyant rom-com

Endearing offering shines a ray of hope on a losing battle

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2015, 6:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2015, 6:30am

With her fiery stare and naturally pale complexion, Fay Bai Baihe appears to have cornered a niche in portraying sprightly yet terminally ill women. After honing her craft in the 2013 romantic tearjerkers A Wedding Invitation and The Stolen Years, the Chinese actress has now remodelled her character’s tragic fate for young director Han Yan’s Go Away Mr. Tumour.

Based on the real-life story of a cancer patient who blogged about her last months in comics form before dying in 2012, this is a diverting if predictable rom-com that, astonishingly, has been picked as China’s submission for next year’s best foreign-language Oscar. While it is unlikely to stay in that race, the film’s infectiously optimistic outlook should win over the casual viewers.

Bai plays Xiong Dun, a cartoonist who is dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her job in quick session. But Xiong’s bad luck only continues when, after fainting on her 29th birthday, she’s diagnosed with lymph cancer during hospital check-ups. Short on narrative and long on positive energy, the film then follows her big crush on the handsome Doctor Liang (Daniel Wu Yin-cho) – till the very end.

Even though the audiences are well aware that the heroine is fighting a losing battle (Xiong was then a social media celebrity in China), Go Away Mr. Tumour still consistently endears with its amusing portrait of Xiong’s strong ties to her best friends, including the tomboyish Lao Zheng (Cheng Yi), effeminate colleague Xiaoxia (Liu Ruilin) and workaholic roommate Emmy (Zhang Zixuan).

Having also tackled the subject of fatal illness in 2012’s First Time, Han turns here to vibrant fantasy sequences to maximise his film’s escapist quotient. In particular, Xiong’s recurrent dreams about being saved by Liang from encroaching zombies is a blatant riff on The Walking Dead TV series, whose channel, AMC, just so happens to be airing Wu’s martial arts vehicle Into the Badlands.

Go Away Mr. Tumour opens on November 12