The name Tam Wai-Ching may not be instantly familiar. But she is known as a screenwriter who co-wrote recent mainstream blockbusters including Benny Chan’s The White Storm (2013) and Call of Heroes (2016), as well as Dante Lam’s Operation Mekong (2016).
In Your Dreams, which is part of HK government’s First Feature Film Initiative, marks the rising screenwriter’s directorial debut. But instead of making an action movie of her own, In Your Dreams is rather a small-scale relationship drama about a teenage student (Ng Shi-Hin) falling in love with his substitute teacher, Mrs Yip (Carina Lau).
Veteran Carina Lau carries her role well as an estranged woman, who suffered from a rocky relationship due to her husband’s infidelity. Up-and-coming actor Ng Siu-Hin (Ten Years, Mad World) steals most of the show as a lonely teenager who loves women twice his age. Both actors show decent chemistry, while Tam manages to capture some of the essential arthouse flairs that reflect these two lonely souls.
Supporting actors, in the meantime, are equally competent. Veteran action director Stephen Tung Wai made quite an impression playing Chi-Hang’s alcoholic father. The same also goes for Jennifer Yu, who plays Mrs Yip’s husband’s dance-instructor mistress.
While the acting is generally above-average, Tam Wai-Ching’s screenplay isn’t strong enough to justify the movie’s otherwise taboo subject matter. Despite the controversial nature surrounding the forbidden love and attraction between a student and a schoolteacher, Tam could have pushed some boundaries in her overall direction. Instead, she chose to play safe with the subject matter as if she needs to please both arthouse and mainstream audiences at the same time. You can say it’s pretty much a missed opportunity. It is also clear that getting all merely moody and artsy-fartsy can only go this far.
No doubt that In Your Dreams has a huge potential somewhere in between. It may have been a half-baked effort for a first-time feature director like Tam Wai-Ching. But if she’s to improve and continue her newfound journey as a filmmaker, there’s a chance she can do better in the future.