Diary


Director: Oxide Pang
Starring: Charlene Choi, Isabella Leong, Shawn Yue

Monday: I feel so depressed I could sing the blues.
Tuesday: Life sucks. Totally.
Wednesday: Nobody loves me.
Thursday: Why am I so alone?
Friday: All my luck is bad and it’s getting worse
Saturday: It’s Saturday night and I got nowhere to go but down
Sunday: Why is there blood on the floor and blood on my hands?

This may sound like the diary of George W. Bush during January 2007, but it is also the downbeat theme in the latest offering from the always working Pang Brothers in this relentlessly glum film about sanity or the lack of it in the heart of Hong Kong. Eschewing their typically hyperventilating visuals and frantic camera movement, this film nearly all takes place in a small suffocating apartment where the camera often simply observes. It is more than a bit slow moving with very little seemingly happening for much of the running time, but there are many hints that this is only on the surface level and that beneath this is a horror waiting to reveal itself. What keeps the viewer involved and intrigued is in discovering just what the horror is.

Winnie is portrayed by the usually cherubic Charlene Choi as if her credit cards were taken away by her management company, Emperor. Engulfed by depression, she mechanically goes through her daily ritual or stays morosely inert in the confines of her darkened apartment. To be sure that the audience understands how mentally unwell she is a black cloud literally comes through the window. The cause of this mood is that apparently her boyfriend Seth left her without saying a word and she can’t contact him. She tells her only friend Yee (Isabella) that every man eventually leaves her – they all change after sex. One day she thinks she sees Seth and approaches him only to discover that it is someone else, Ray (Shawn). She tells him that he reminds her of her boyfriend and asks if it is o.k. if she talks with him. He says yes.

Soon she is having him over for dinner and for the night and he soon moves in, but her usual men problems surface when he begins to lose interest in her, loses his job, just hangs out about the apartment watching TV and is generally silent and detached. Like guys generally are. He doesn’t seem to notice a few danger signs that are difficult to miss – feverish chopping of meat in the kitchen with a large cleaver, changing her story about her ex-boyfriend so that he now seems to have died, an obsession with carving wooden puppets and an annoying habit of always asking him if she is cuter than someone called Gillian while having sex. But how much of what we are seeing is real and how much of it is in her clearly not stable mind? The film slowly unpeels that onion and that is what keeps the viewer going as it gets down to the final layer of madness.

This is barely a ripple in the Pang Brother’s filmography – fairly slight and not all that compelling but still worth taking a look at in particular for Charlene’s nearly one woman show. Though it will always be difficult for her to shake off her Twin’s idol image, she gives it a good go here with as dour a performance as one could get. It isn’t Meryl Streep territory or anywhere close, but she keeps it straight, never pouts and never even hints at her usually cuddly roles. In one scene she flicks her eyeballs around like a pinball machine and it is quite creepy and effective. Oh, by the way – Gillian is still much cuter.

My rating for this film: 6.0