Friday, September 13, 2013

TIFF Day 8

Seven days. A week. Work, movie, movie, home, sleep, work movie movie home sleep workmoviemoviehomesleep. Lines of sweaty people, bitching about the lines, panicking with their claustrophobia. Latecomers wondering why they can't get 5 seats together. 2500 volunteers need applause when K.C. and the Sunshine Band play. ARRRRRR. Will I have time for the Q&A AND make my next movie?

#firstworldproblems

Bends
China has a well-known one-child policy. Hong Kong is still very western, with rules that differ from the mainland. These two areas are separated by a river that twists and bends its way between them.

The wife of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman and her chauffeur have different lives, and different problems. Mrs. Li's husband disappears without warning, cancels their credit cards, suspends his bank account, and won't answer her calls. She is suddenly facing a life alone and a long fall from the top of the social ladder.
While Mrs. Li's predicament isn't uncommon in the Western world, she is of the old school of thought, where these things don't happen. She goes into shock, unsure how to deal with what's happening. She desperately tries to maintain the illusion of wealth and social standing while hiding the truth from everyone.

Fai commutes for two hours every day from the mainland to drive Mrs. Li around in her Mercedes. Him and his young daughter tell people that his wife is visiting family for a few months, only to come home with her hiding in the apartment, both of them scared of people finding out she's pregnant with their second child. Something that would result in an unaffordable fine, or the loss of their children's rights as Chinese citizens. The only solution is to get to a hospital across the border so the child can be born as citizen of Hong Kong. The problem being that everyone else seems to be trying to do the same thing.



If this was a movie from nearly anywhere else, resolutions would be simpler. Mrs. Li would send some lawyers after her husband and get her share from the coward. While she may still be heartbroken and devastated, she wouldn't fear destitution as much -- the situation would be commonplace. Fai's child would be born and their concerns would be about money, not the rights of their children. But this is a Chinese film.

Director Flora Lau hasn't made a complex film, but its simple story is effectively told. She has paced it incredibly slowly, driving home the slow-burning desperation of its protagonists. Unfortunately, with such a thin narrative, this pace makes the 95 minute movie feel significantly longer. It's a rarely-seen look at the divide between two areas of modern China and the effects this society's rules have on individuals. Although to be honest, I felt little pathos for either character, thinking "Well why did you get pregnant in the first place?" and "They have divorce lawyers in Hong Kong, don't they?" most of the time.

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