Break Up Club

Starring: Jaycee Chan Cho-ming , Fiona Sit Hoi-kei, Patrick Tang Kin-wang, Hayama Go Director: Barbara Wong Chun-chun Category: IIB (Cantonese)

Breaking up is hard to do, a concept Neil Sedaka captured in a 1962 pop classic whose artless simplicity is the conceptual opposite of director-writer Barbara Wong Chun-chun's ambitious but overcomplicated look at young romance on the verge of breakdown. The script, co-authored by Wong's co-producer Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui, is loaded with interesting concepts, any one or two of which would have been enough to accomplish the task of bringing the serio-comic travails of 21-year-old Joe (Jaycee Chan Cho-ming) and Flora (Fiona Sit Hoi-kei, above with Chan) to the screen. But the director goes for broke, adding layer upon layer that, rather than making the recipe richer, results in a m?lange in which the ingredients' unique flavours are overwhelmed.

First is the fanciful construct referred to in the title, a mysterious website where the forlorn can reunite with their exes if they're willing to instigate another couple's break-up. This Joe does, logging in and miraculously causing a rupture between best friend Sunny (Patrick Tang Kin-wang) and his gal pal (Bonnie Sin Sik-lai). There's ample material there to serve as a springboard for an entire feature, but Break Up Club chooses instead to follow a semi-documentary/mockumentary route.

The director, playing herself, is seen interviewing an array of young people about their rocky relationships. Some of the interviewees actually seem real. Chan delivers a heartfelt turn and displays the same chemistry with Sit that helped make 2 Young (2005) sparkle.

But saddled with an intro that highlights the movie's inherent artifice, Chan faces an almost insurmountable task in coming across as an average Joe the director just happened upon.

Not that the film sticks exclusively to the documentary angle, for this quickly becomes secondary to the blossoming of Joe and Flora's love - and in another case of 'life imitating art', plays upon the tabloid gossip connecting Chan and Sit off screen.

Within the context of Break Up Club, the two constitute a couple with great mutual affection but who are clearly not meant for each other.

The script exhibits genuine insight as it reveals Flora at a different life phase to her cute but immature pup of a beau. It's time for her to move on, a situation that would have happened even without the insertion of a sophisticated Japanese artist (Hayama Go) who represents excitement she could never have with Joe.

But the director is not satisfied with leaving it at that, further blurring the contrived blurry lines between 'reality' and 'drama' by manoeuvering the documentary aspects back into the spotlight. Potentially fascinating moral questions are raised by the willingness of the narrative's professionals and amateurs to cross ethical lines to get a good shot, issues which in and of themselves would be fertile ground for a feature production of their own. But by the time Joe hobbles on crutches through Chek Lap Kok airport, the scene's emotional excess is symbolic of the thematic excess that will likely deter audiences from joining the director's intriguing celluloid club.

Break Up Club is screening now