ReviewWriter: Casey ChongWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects:
NACinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Woohoo!” and “Great Day”.
In 2010 and 2011, Malaysian director Chiu Keng Guan (or better known as Chiu) has twice broken the local box office records for "Woohoo!" and "Great Day", and even paved way for more local Malaysian-Chinese movie productions. Now, he's back with his long-awaited third movie, "The Journey". The wait is well worth it, because "The Journey" is easily his best movie to date. What's more is that "The Journey" is totally out of this reviewer's expectation for being one of the greatest local Malaysian-Chinese movies ever made!
"The Journey" opens with Bee (Joanne Yew) returning to her hometown, Cameron Highlands after spending a decade living with her aunt to study art in England. She brought back her British fiance, Benji (Ben Andrew Pfeiffer) to introduce him to her conservative father Uncle Chuan (Frankie Lee) since they are planning to get married soon. At the beginning, Uncle Chuan opposed to his daughter's marriage because he doesn't get along with Benji well. However, he ends up agreeing to their marriage reluctantly with one condition - their wedding ceremony has to follow the Chinese tradition. Soon, the cross-country journey begins with Benji and Uncle Chuan riding a motorcycle together to deliver the wedding invitations to Uncle Chuan's 11 ex-primary schoolmates all over Malaysia.
In this third directing effort, Chiu and his regular screenwriter Ryon Lee (who previously penned the scripts for Chiu's first two movies), successfully combined the universal themes of culture, hope, love, friendship and unity that everyone can relate to, one way or another. Chiu's direction is delicate and meticulous to detail, especially the way he depicts the Chinese culture and tradition with such authenticity. Kudos also goes to Ryon Lee's well-written screenplay which is both heartfelt (this reviewer almost shed tears watching this movie) and hilarious as well.
At the first glance, the idea of casting actors with little or no experience in acting at all is certainly a huge gamble. But the risk is surprisingly rewarding. 73-year-old retiree Frankie Lee (Sai Peng) is perfectly cast as a conservative and strict father Uncle Chuan. He pairs well with Australian stage actor Ben Andrew Pfeiffer, who gives a first-rate performance as Benji. The way how they clash against each other because of their cultural and ideological differences are easily relatable and at times genuinely funny as well. As Bee, Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant 2007 Joanne Yew (Hong Im) proves that she is not just a photogenic beauty but also manages to handle her role with equal flair. Similarly, the rest of the supporting actors are just as remarkable.
Eric Yeong's cinematography, which is shot on locations across six Malaysian states (Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, Penang, Kedah, Melaka and Johor), are so beautifully captured it's like watching a travel channel. The Cameron Highlands setting - especially the panoramic and idyllic view of the green landscape - is worth the special mention here.
If there's one Chinese New Year movie that you are going to watch this year, make sure you don't miss "The Journey". Like the title itself, this is one cinematic journey worth cherishing for. On the plus side, do stay for the end-credit music video at which Ben Andrew Pfeiffer sang in a lovely combination of English and Chinese.Cinema Online, 13 January 2014