Miles away from the glittering stores and pulsing
neon lit streets of Hong Kong lie the New Towns. Block after block of impersonal,
monolithic, cement high rise public housing buildings that take in the
over flow of people from Hong Kong like a dirty sponge. It has an infrastructure
and social system that is collapsing from neglect and surrender and both
social and parental authority seems to have long disappeared.
Parents are as rare as a cool August breeze and
a generation of children is growing up much too quickly with easy access
and casual attitudes towards drugs, sex, abortions and petty criminal activities.
Schools are primarily a holding pen for the kids during the daytime hours
and have no relevance in their lives. Instead their lives play out in darkened,
dank Karaoke rooms, tacky malls, video arcades and on the streets of the
This film takes place on these uncaring streets
and it follows the lives of four teenage girls who have created a clique
or more accurately a family of their own. It is only within this family
unit that they feel loved, protected and wanted. Everyone outside of this
circle is suspect – the families that don’t care and the “hit and run”
boyfriends that come and go with no sense of responsibility. Director Lawrence
Lau never hits us over the head though with these social ills. They are
just there. This is how it is. Like the air we breathe, it’s part of the
fabric of life and the girls just deal with it. They know no better.
The film is generally plotless in the sense that
it has no beginning and no defined end – it is more a slice of life look
at a few days in the lives of these girls and I found it extremely compelling.
Within 10 minutes into the lives of these four girls I was completely absorbed
and by the end I was completely moved. Lau gives the film and the girls
a wonderful sense of humanity - and humor - and pathos. The girls (who
are all played by non-actors) come across as so real and vivid and distinct
– all needing to be tough in a tough world – but still just young girls
underneath the façade. One gets the impression that Lau truly cared
about them and the story that he tells.
The smallest and relatively most innocent of the
crew is Cookie (Debbie Tam). She is also the heart of the film. Only thirteen
years old and heartbroken by a mother who has deserted her, she drifts
though life aimlessly with no goals and no sense of worth. She wins us
over completely though in a scene in which she overhears another more ambitious
student (Vanesia Chu) tell of her high qualifications to a teacher and
Cookie can only think ruefully to herself “I’m President of the Nap Club”.
She has just found out that she is pregnant by a guy who promised that
it could never happen on the first time. He is not returning her calls.
Banana (Angela Au) spends her time in class seductively
cooing on a Party Line and then bedding down boys in her small messy bedroom
surrounded by girlhood memories and yesterdays toys. There is no guilt
nor is there love – just a break from the monotony of life.
Sissy (Christy Cheung) and Bean-curd (Maggie Poon)
are teenage lesbian lovers (though it is never clear if this is sexual)
- and as different as night and day. Sissy is all girly and chats happily
to her friends on her cell phone with one hand and shop lifts with the
other hand while Bean-curd is a shaven head hard headed character – protective
and jealous of Sissy at the same time – and taking no grief from anyone.
In these few days in which we follow their
lives, the girls try and work out issues of identity, sexuality, responsibility,
love, friendship, trust and their place in the world. These are the types
of issues that many coming of age films tackle, but Lau does it with such
an unromantic and yet tender and sympathetic view that it grabs a part
of your heart and by the end these four girls will as well. One truly wishes
them well on their journey through life.
I thought the film faltered a bit near the end
with a jarring ugly dream like sequence that felt out of place with the
rest of the film – but the gentle ending redeems the film – gives us all
hope - and allows us and the director to wave goodbye to the girls as they
go on with their lives.
Milkyway produced this film and though clearly
it is very different from any of their previous efforts, it is as imaginative
and creative as any of them are. In some ways in fact, more so. This is
clearly one of the best HK films so far in the new millennium.
My rating for this film: 8.0
Distributed by Mei Ah
The transfer is first rate and one of the best
I have seen from Mei Ah.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Removable subtitles with 3 choices: Chinese
(Traditional), English, Chinese (Simplified)
Includes it's own trailer and the trailer for
"Untouchable Maniac". The trailer has both the English and Chinese subs
showing - explaining why some of the above pictures have both.