Film review: In Your Dreams – Carina Lau, Ng Siu-hin in Tam Wai-ching’s intimate feature debut
The directorial debut of screenwriter Tam Wai-ching gives Ng Siu-hin his first starring role as a moody youth who falls for his lovelorn teacher, Carina Lau; the storytelling is weak but as a mood piece it is effective and shows promise
The opening round of the Hong Kong government’s First Feature Film Initiative delivered a miraculous crop in Weeds on Fire , Mad World and the soon-to-be-released Somewhere Beyond the Mist. This film, the directorial debut of emerging screenwriter Tam Wai-ching – funded under the scheme’s second round – has a harder time finding the right balance between commercialism and artistic ambition.
Carina Lau Ka-ling again plays an affluent housewife struggling with the prolonged absence of her significant other – as she did in the low-budget drama Bends (2013). The veteran actress’ character in In Your Dreams – for which she also served as producer – is lonely Yuek-mei, a woman troubled enough by her husband’s (Tse Kwan-ho) affair to seek out a temporary teaching post in a high school.
Playing opposite Lau in this two-hander is Ng Siu-hin, the last of the trio of young actors from She Remembers, He Forgets (2015) to earn a starring role – following Neo Yau Hawk-sau in With Prisoners and Cecilia So Lai-shan in Never Too Late . The true protagonist in this elusive tale of obsession, Ng’s character, Cheung Chi-hang, is a moody youth who channels his yearning for a long-absent mother into an affection for older women.
After he saves a drunken Yuek-mei from drowning in the school swimming pool one night and develops a crush on her, Cheung learns she is to be his substitute class teacher. He gets into a schoolyard fight to defend her honour, and the bond between the two grows stronger when her home visit – Cheung has an alcoholic father (Tung Wai) who dreams that his wife has never left – leads to revelations about her unhappy marriage.
Cheung enrols in a social dance class to learn more about her husband’s dance instructor mistress (Jennifer Yu Heung-ying, Sisterhood ) and report back to Yuek-mei. But his obsession with the unhappy housewife leads him into far more serious misdemeanours, from secretly breaking into her house to a pathetic – and rather sad – attempt to kidnap her daughter.
All the signs suggest this is not going to end well for either character – yet In Your Dreams is more about sentiments than dramatic conflicts and their consequences. An exercise in stylistic flair and nuanced acting, Tam’s film hides its inconsequential narrative behind the facade of an artful mood piece.
This is a promising first film for a new director – as well as an opportunity missed for Hong Kong cinema to enter edgier-than-usual territory.
In Your Dreams opens on January 11
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