Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat

Reviewed by YTSL

Over the past few years, Hong Kong cinema has seen its share of new female stars emerge on screen.  Sammi Cheng, Miriam Yeung, Cecilia Cheung, Vicki Zhao Wei and the Twins are now household names in those parts of the world where the Jade Theatre continues to attract a considerable share of viewers, while Angelica Lee and Karena Lam have garnered HKFA plus Golden Horse awards which many people had assumed would go to older plus longer established actresses.  Although this film industry’s most recent generation of female directors have yet to collectively plus individually make as big a splash, they too are -- at the very least -- being given their chance to show what they can do.

Roy Chow, Karena Lam,  Patrick Tang and Sammy Leung
For the most part, the likes of Crystal Kwok (whose sole directorial output to date has been “The Mistress”), Mak Yan Yan (with “Gege”), Carol Lai (with “Glass Tears”) and GC Goo Bi (who helmed that which to have been commonly concluded to be the most laudable portion of “Heroes in Love”) have brought forth works which are “art-house” and/or “independent” in style and/or nature.  Even Aubrey Lam’s “Twelve Nights” (for all of its having been produced by U.F.O. doyen, Peter Chan), appeared to be this rather rarified way inclined.  Alternatively, although she may have thought to have headed in the same direction with “Women’s Private Parts” (a Category III rated documentary that played at the 2001 New York Independent Film and Video Festival), Barbara Wong Chun Chun looks to have demonstrated with TRUTH OR DARE: 6TH FLOOR REAR FLAT -- a youth-oriented work whose box office take may not have passed HK$10 million (as of mid July 2003) but which has continued to play in HKSAR theatres for more than a month after it was first released -- that she can attract as well as intrigue her share of “regular” movie viewers.
Candy Lo and Lawrence Chou
The basic premise and story of TRUTH OR DARE: 6TH FLOOR REAR FLAT is simple enough: An assorted group of six friends rent and move into a 6th floor flat (i.e., “apartment”, in American English) that turns out to have an extra room at the back.  In their shared space, these twenty-something year old personalities -- i.e., aspiring writer Karena (who’s portrayed by Karena Lam), Tarot card reader Candy Lo (played by the same named singer-actress), the musically inclined Wing (Lawrence Chou in a role that -- unlike with the part of the psychologist in “The Eye” -- well suits him), the entrepreneurial Jean (played by Patrick Tang), openly gay Bo (who’s empathetically essayed by Sammy Leung) and the generally introverted Leo (Roy Chow deserves credit for ensuring that this often entertainingly outré plus risqué production’s quietest character did not turn out to be its least interesting) -- often play “Truth or Dare”: a game whose players have to (be prepared to) truthfully answer questions directed at them or enact that which they have been dared to do.
Edwin Siu, William So and Barbara Wong
One fateful evening, these generally brazen individuals get dared by a pissed off visiting participant -- who was seeking to “get back” at his hosts for their putting him in a position he considered unbecoming and unfair -- to agree to literally eat shit if they do not achieve the goals they wrote down on slips of paper (and deposited into emptied bottles of alcohol) within a year.  In a show of bravado worthy of their being veteran players of their favorite game, the movie’s main sextet decide to accept that sizeable challenge and those outlandish terms.  In the process, they ambitiously as well as communally commit themselves towards trying to make their distinct plus particular dreams -- which range from professional oriented ones like getting a book published or amassing a considerable amount of money to more personal ones like finding Mr. Right and going off to Paris with him or causing a former love to be sorry -- come true inside of the stipulated time period.
Teresa Carpio and Hau Woon-ling
Do (any of) the protagonists of TRUTH OR DARE: 6TH FLOOR REAR FLAT manage to achieve their goals?  At the risk of my sounding like a fortune cookie writer, here’s contending that Barbara Wong Chun Chun successfully shows that the journeys taken and efforts made while seeking to carry out this sometimes amusing -- even while simultaneously serious -- challenge are more important than whatever turn out to be the end results of the game.  And if this were not impressive enough, the film’s auteur -- who also appears on screen: firstly, as a pregnant character named Amy; then, together with many others of this offering’s crew members, as herself as the end credits roll, to provide their own answers to a relevant query -- also manages to saliently plus sympathetically incorporate the personal viewpoints and tales of at least a couple of older female figures (notably those portrayed by a maternal Theresa Carpio and the grandmotherly -- but, nonetheless, observably young at heart -- Hau Woon-ling) into the already complex equation.
To my mind, one sure measure of the quality of an ensemble work is that its main characters appear distinct.  IMHO, TRUTH OR DARE: 6TH FLOOR REAR FLAT passes this test -- and more, actually, since more than one of its supporting characters (including a pair of policemen friends of the flat-mates -- turned suitors of Candy Lo -- played by William So and Edwin Siu) as well as its six principal personalities are easily distinguishable from one another.  Another mark of excellence can be seen in the makers of this cleverly conceived plus scripted -- and largely light hearted, yet also genuinely moving on occasion -- offering having made it easy enough to understand where quite a few of the characters are coming from and/or have the points of view that they do even when some of these are in direct opposition with others.  Indeed, so much is this the case that a scene that starts off in a confrontational manner can be counted among the work’s best along with a couple of others that are more harmonious vibe emitting from start to finish.

My rating for this film: 9.