ReviewWriter: Casey ChongWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Echoes Of The Rainbow”, “Isabella”, “Love In A Puff” and “Love In The Buff”
From his acclaimed debut with 2001's "You Shoot, I Shoot" to 2012's award-winning "Vulgaria", writer-director Pang Ho-Cheung has constantly proven himself as one of Hong Kong's most versatile filmmakers of the current generation who isn't afraid to explore different genres with his trademark dark comedy and timely social commentary. In his latest movie, "Aberdeen", Pang embraces a new challenge in his rare Hong Kong family drama that departs from his usual body of works.
The title of the movie, "Aberdeen", actually refers to a southern district located on the Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong which tells multiple stories surrounding the Cheng family. That includes older sister, Wai Ching (Miriam Yeung) a museum tour guide who has been suffering from emotional breakdown ever since her mother died. Meanwhile, her doctor husband, Yau Kin-Cheung (Eric Tsang) is having affair with a flirty young nurse (Jacky Choi). The other Cheng family members in the storyline are Wai Ching's tutor brother, Tao (Louis Koo); Tao's actress-model wife Ceci (Gigi Leung) and their young daughter Chloe (Lee Man-Kwai); and finally Wai Ching and Wai Tao's Taoist priest father Dong (Ng Man-Tat) who has been in a relationship with a nightclub hostess named Ta (Carrie Ng).
If you watched some of Pang's recent movies, he usually incorporates dark comedy elements, colourful Cantonese profanities, Category III-level sex and witty satire that reflect the Hong Kong society and culture. However in "Aberdeen", Pang decided to tone down those elements and aimed for something low-key instead. Such drastic change of pace might alienate most of his die-hard fans, but rest assured Pang still manages to pull off a decent job in this family drama.
While Pang's script does tend to descend into soap opera-like moments, his overall storyline which tackles universal themes such as embracing the past and hope for a better future, love, happiness, sadness and forgiveness remains thoughtful enough.
Meanwhile, his direction displays a satisfying level of nuance in terms of handling the movie's emotional core while adding his unique brand of quirky touch. Among them is the surrealistic moment where Chloe dreams about her recently-departed pet iguana, Greenie, as the reincarnation of a Godzilla-like monster who stomps into a miniature scale of Hong Kong city made of cardboard cutouts. That sequence is certainly delightful enough for its arresting visual alone, while Pang also manages to present a metaphor that reflects the traditional Chinese belief of reincarnation within Chloe's childlike perspective.
Speaking of Chloe, newcomer Lee Man-Kwai has definitely brought a lot of depth in this family drama. No doubt she's an acting prodigy who almost steals the entire show from the rest of the star-studded cast. But that doesn't means the other actors failed to deliver. In fact, they have their own moments to shine throughout the movie. Louis Koo is engaging as usual as the image-conscious tutor father who is not shy about expressing his disappointment over his pudgy daughter, Chloe in which he nicknames her as "Piggy". His scene involving his discussion on Chloe's less-than-satisfying outlook with his best buddy (Chapman To) is especially funny. Gigi Leung, who recently made a brief comeback in "The Monkey King", delivers a strong performance as the insecure Ceci who suffers a career meltdown due to her advancing age. The rest of the cast, including Miriam Yeung, Eric Tsang, Carrie Ng and Ng Man-Tat in his rare serious performance as the distraught father, are all equally competent.
Production design is fine, and kudos to Jason Kwan for capturing a beautiful and at times, dreamlike cinematography of the Hong Kong city.
No doubt "Aberdeen" is Pang's most mature movie to date. While it doesn't rank as one of his best works, it remains a notable effort worth checking out for.Cinema Online, 07 May 2014