Compelling sketches of youth

lau kit wai

A heartfelt, romantic and lively independent film, b420 is by far the most engaging youth movie this year.

The film, about three teenagers struggling to sort out their lives as they try to make sense of the world, was awarded the Grand Prix at Japan's 19th Fukuoka Asian Film Festival.

The Macau-based film stars pop idol Miki Yeung as Koey, a 19-year-old who has been living with her grandmother since her parents' divorce. She quits school and divides her time between working in a small gift shop and hanging out with Willy (Sam Lee), a former racing champion who is haunted by the death of his girlfriend.

Koey's secret admirer, Simon (Ben Hung), is an introvert who chats with her on the internet under the pseudonym of Jenny.

The trio become best friends and cook up a kidnapping scam to swindle money from a gang boss. Despite their different personalities, they are all lost and misunderstood teenagers in a complex world where true love and friendship are hard to come by.

Having grown up in parentless or single-parent families, the teens are either too shy to express their feelings or too carefree to shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood.

But scriptwriter and director Mathew Tang Hon-keung avoids passing judgment on the characters and allows them to speak for themselves. The film opens and ends with voiceovers by Koey and the story is told from the teenagers' point of view. This gives the film vitality and validity - two rarities in local youth movies that are often dictated by a moral agenda.

The film's best scenes show the romantic relationship between Koey and Willy, particularly their comical of first encounter and attempt to save a suicidal tomboy on a rooftop. Through these two characters, Tang convincingly sketches what it's like to be desperate and young.

Yeung's performance is outstanding and deserves a Best Actress award nomination.