Review: ABERDEEN 香港仔 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Review: ABERDEEN 香港仔 (2014)

While a bit melodramatic, ABERDEEN is well-acted and beautifully understated family dramedy.

Throughout the decade since Pang Ho-Cheung made his directorial debut in 2001's YOU SHOOT, I SHOOT, he is mostly famous for delivering a number of unique black comedies such as MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK (2003) and most recently, VULGARIA (2012). But there is time where he also breaks out from his black comedy genre and ventures into different territory (e.g. 2010's horror thriller DREAM HOME). ABERDEEN is one of the movies where Pang explores into the different genre.

ABERDEEN centres on the Cheng family where it begins with the middle-aged daughter Wai Ching (Miriam Yeung), a museum tour guide who suffers from severe depression ever since her mother died. Her ultrasound specialist husband, Yau Kin-Cheung (Eric Tsang), in the meantime, is having an affair with a young nurse (Jacky Choi). Then there's Wai Ching's brother Tao (Louis Koo), a handsome tutor who cares so much about image. He has an actress-model wife named Ceci (Gigi Leung) and a cute young daughter named Chloe (Lee Man-Kwai). Lastly, there's the family patriarch Dong (Ng Man-Tat), a fisherman-turned-Taoist priest who always hooked up with his nightclub hostess Ta (Carrie Ng).
Pang's direction is thoughtful, yet nicely subdued that matches the low-key aspect of his movie here. Pang, who also wrote the screenplay as well, brings a subtle balance of carefully-measured family drama and witty comedy. In fact, the way he handles some of the universal themes such as love and regret, are profound and easily relatable to many viewers.

On the technical side, Jason Kwan's elegantly-composed cinematography on the Hong Kong city is worthy of a praise.

The star-studded cast here is top notch. Louis Koo is typically engaging as the image-obsessed Tao while also gets to show the lighter side of his performance; Gigi Leung is solid as the insecure Ceci who realizes she has passed her prime in the showbiz industry. Even so, at the age of 38 years old, she looks remarkably stunning with her well-maintained body. The rest of the supporting casts (Miriam Yeung, Ng Man-Tat and Carrie Ng) are equally great, and so does the cameo appearances including Shawn Yue and Chapman To. Meanwhile, newcomer Lee Man-Kwai almost steals the show with her adorable and heartfelt performance as Chloe.

The visually pleasing, yet surrealistic sequence of Chloe's dream involving the reincarnation of her pet iguana, Greenie turned Godzilla-like monster, and stomps around the cardboard version of Hong Kong city; the eerie but affecting fantasy sequence where Wai Ching rides a taxi cab with the driver himself all made of papier-mache; the wonderful sequence which involved saving the whale; the hilarious metaphorical scene where Tao's best friend (Chapman To) debates with Tao about the famous Stormtrooper scene from STAR WARS; and the poignant moment where Yau reflects his own life journey each time he passes by a road sign that says "To All Destinations".

Despite clocking at a reasonable 98 minutes, there are times where the pacing lags behind. Peter Kam's score may have been wonderfully melancholy, but he tends to go overboard during most of the movie's emotional moments. Although Pang's screenplay is mostly well-written, it's still not without the flaws. Somewhere in between, there's a nagging feeling that Pang doesn't push his narrative skill hard enough to warrant a debate. Case in point is the timely but hollow social commentary involving the discovery of a buried bomb from World War II.


Despite most of the shortcomings, ABERDEEN remains an admirable if not one of the best efforts from Pang Ho-Cheung.

No comments: