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Chinese language cinema

Film review: The Secret – Leon Lai plays widowed husband in turgid supernatural romance

Obvious plot, sentimental excess and hammy acting add up to a dead loss

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 February, 2016, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 February, 2016, 12:46pm

Acting doesn’t often get hammier than it is in this regrettably pompous foray into the paranormal by Hong Kong director Barbara Wong Chun-chun (GirlsThe Stolen Years). A Sixth Sense-inspired story of love lost and found that also shares an incidental parallel to Andrew Haigh’s heart-wrenching marriage drama 45 Years, The Secret hinges on plot revelations so incredibly obvious, that you’re more likely to notice instead the actors’ quiet struggles in their poorly written parts.

Leon Lai Ming channels his utterly serious self as Kai-feng, a bereaved husband whose love for his dead spouse is so powerful he literally brings her back into existence. As the wife Qiu-jie, Wang Luodan gives her best oblivious expression as her character resumes life caring for her husband and their cute little son in their affluent home. But all is not well, especially after Kai-feng is warned by a psychic that Qiu-jie’s spirit will only be visible to those who love her – and that she’ll vanish once she realises her condition.

Long before it gets to reveal the full damage done by the hinted-at Himalayan climbing accident that started it all, The Secret has lost itself in a range of teary episodes of family love and inevitable reconciliation. Even the supporting players – Kai-feng’s cousin (Taiwan-based Singaporean singer JJ Lin, who seems like a fish out of water) and his wife (Sandrine Pinna), who live next to Kai-feng’s family – fail to escape the sentimental excess. Or you could say it’s just all par for the course for director Wong.

The Secret opens on February 25