Best-selling author and HK Magazine’s very own columnist Chip Tsao’s directorial debut “Enthralled” is inevitably tinged with the political. Heavy on the melodrama, allegory and mega-twists, the film is a metaphorical soap opera about the Hong Kong experience. Three elementary school friends are separated following the post-Tiananmen wave of emigration. Although they lead disparate lives, they meet again 20 years later, back in Hong Kong. One has since immigrated to the UK and returned as a successful banker and womanizer. The most solipsistic of the three is immune to the attempts of his Uyghur exchange student to draw him out of his shell, becoming obsessed instead with his late estranged father, who killed himself after murdering a fellow cop. The last friend is an opportunistic social climber hairstylist-cum-gigolo with a secret double life. Of course, it all crescendos to multiple deaths. It’s a melodrama of epic proportions, bordering on the absurd. Tsao sees the film as an extended metaphor for Hong Kong. The title is inspired by a Milton quote: “I formed them free, and free they must remain, until they enthrall themselves.” He described Hong Kong to us in similar terms, as “a sun in the Far East that struggles against its eclipse, until of course it finally sets.” A big reason to watch the film is its promising young cast, including local babe Mandy Lieu, who shows surprising acting chops; and British-Chinese male babe Christopher Goh, who’s emerging as a serious dramatist—as much is evident from the obsessive role he plays in the film. Goh tells us that he met Chip early one morning at Tsui Wah after a night of clubbing. He and a friend spotted Chip having an early AM toast and condensed milk, and they struck up a conversation about his books. The conversation flowed from there, and the next thing Goh knew, he was cast as one of the leads in “Enthralled.” Goh injects his character with the authentic mindset of a British-born Chinese returnee who thinks he has the run of the place. The young Manchu actress, Joy Sheng Langxi, also shows huge potential. Meanwhile, the timeless Candy Lo delivers an adept performance as a neglected housewife searching for an emotional anchor. (There’s a bonus not-small role by one Michael Chugani.) “Enthralled” is Tsao’s first foray into film. His dramatic stage productions were met with critical acclaim. While “Enthralled” suffers from an ambition that bursts far past its budget (not to mention a few overwrought soapy twists that would make Almodóvar blush), it’s a noble stab of a first effort, and hopefully he’ll have more of a budget to paint with on his next outing. “Enthralled” opened April 10.