Merry Go Round

In a last minute rush to check out a few more offerings from 2001 before I compile a Top 10 list for the year, I have been very pleasantly surprised to discover a few small nicely wrapped presents waiting for me. They have received little publicity but You Shoot, I Shoot and this film have generated strong word of mouth as films worth checking out. In both instances word of mouth has been right on target. Both films unfortunately vanished at the box office without a gasp (You Shoot, I Shoot -HK$ 1.7MM, Merry Go Round - HK$ 1.1MM), but they are certainly more rewarding than many of the higher profile films of the year.
It is somewhat surprising that Merry Go Round did so poorly as it is produced by UFO, but it is a small gentle film with a fairly unknown cast (except for Eric Tsang and a small bit for Helen Law Lan) and directed by Thomas Chow who has only a few film credits to his name. The film harkens back to earlier UFO films, as it is very reminiscent of the series of Yesterday You, Yesterday Me films in which Eric Tsang played a kind understanding father and the film was told from the point of view of his young son. Here Eric is again an understanding father of two children and the film is framed through the eyes of his young daughter Cocoa, but it basically revolves around  his older teenage son, Fung (Lawrence Chou) and his friendship with two sisters – Carlily and Heman.
Lawrence Chou and Yeung Shing Lan
The film admittedly has very little bite and feels somewhat idealized in its portrayal of the family and characters within, but clearly the director has a lot of affection for them and is unable to allow anything really bad into their lives. Not a lot happens in the film – in a metaphorical sense they are on a slow Merry Go Round as it ends sort of where it began – but this very tiny slice of life is touching and when the end credits began rolling I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to watch what this family does next, where it goes next, who it meets next.
Zeny Kwok and Yeung Shing Lan
In a brief synopsis, Eric opens a noodle shop with his two children. Carlily (in a sweet wide eyed huggable performance from newcomer Yeung Shing Lan) pops by and offers to help out. Fung and Carlily soon engage in an adorable hand holding romance. A poor but dignified older woman (Helen Law Lan) and her grandson, Locust, drop by for one bowl of noodles and soon the boy becomes a quasi-member of the family and strikes up a friendship with Cocoa. The only angst enters the film when Fung becomes mildly interested in Carlily’s tomboy sister, Zeny Kwok (get the character’s name - Heman). It’s teenage romance at its most innocent and perhaps in this day and age not quite believable. An interesting aspect that never gets explored is the absence of parents – the mother of Fung and Cocoa is dead, the parents of Carlily and Heman seem to have vanished and Locust is being brought up by his grandmother. But though this is alluded to in one touching scene between father and son and briefly addressed in another between grandmother and grandson – it is never brought in as a major dramatic device.
The performances from the young cast are engaging. All are very new to the business, they seem naturals and are very charming and real. Even though the two little kids appear awkward in a couple of scenes they carry off their roles very nicely. For Eric this sort of role is a walk through the park – what is most interesting is that the scars from the attack on him are very apparent in many of the scenes of the film – a major gash on his forehead – but not in every scene – so perhaps he was filming this when the attack occurred? Adding to the sweet ambiance of the film are three songs from Kelly Chan who also appears in an almost impossible to recognize cameo – but oddly I was able to recognize her from the back! There are a few other cameos as well and Hung Ye appears as one of the contestants in the quiz game.

My rating for this film: 7.5

Note: The below information was passed on to me by Calvin:

GCGooBi who wrote the script created these Fu family characters (which suffered a name change in the movie) in 1998 as a daily segment aired in her radio programme "GCGooBi Family". In the radio version, the father is actually voice-acted by Vincent Kuk and GCGooBi voice acts both brother and sister's characters. Merry-Go-Round was initially a 20 chapters special  presentation aired during last summer which Kelly Chen was both Carlily and Heman, Andy Hui was Locust and Rain Lee from Goodbye Mr.Cool was his  grandma.