China, 2011, colour, 16:9, 89 mins.
Director: Zhu Shaoyu 朱少宇.
Interesting story of Mainlanders in Hong Kong falls short of its potential.
Hong Kong, c. 2008. Min (Zhong Shuhui), who moved to Hong Kong as a teenager 25 years ago from Fujian province, China, lives in a high-rise flat in North Point with her two sons, teenage Wenjie (Lin Junjian) and young Xiaowu (Ouyang Aolin), and Wenjie’s girlfriend from China, Xiaoyun (Zeng Xing). A single woman, she runs a small sewing business and is a devout Buddhist, regularly attending a local temple and helping out with charitable deeds. One day she sells up her business and, with the help of Xia (Wang Qiqin), an old friend who moved with her to Hong Kong, starts selling life assurance. When Xiaoyun discovers she’s pregnant, Wenjie is delighted and the two plan to marry, though Min is concerned where the money will come from. Another old friend from the Mainland, restaurateur Xie Youcai (Wu Dairong), long separated from his wife, tells her he’s always ready to help, but Min turns him down. One of her friends, Hong (Li Xiumei), runs an undercover business arranging for Mainland couples expecting a baby to come to Hong Kong for the birth so the child can get local citizenship. One couple is Li Wei (Zhou Lang), whom Min met at the Buddhist temple, and his wife Li Lili (He Ling). Another is Xu (Wu Shengjian) and his wife (Zeng Xiaoyun), to whom Min rents her own bedroom. Three months later, Xiaoyun is now under pressure from her family in the Mainland to give birth to the child back in China, but Wenjie is against the idea as he wants his kid to be a Hong Kong citizen. Meanwhile, the now heavily pregnant Li Lili wants a Caesarian but finds it’s impossible. And Min’s job is threatened as she still hasn’t sold a single insurance policy, even to her Mainland friends.
Films made by Mainlanders about Mailander communities in Hong Kong are still rare, so North Point 北角 is of interest simply for existing, despite having several weaknesses. The first feature by singer/TV director Zhu Shaoyu 朱少宇, it’s a well-shot, decently acted but dramatically static movie that, like its rather routine score by Luo Yan 罗岩, reveals its TV drama heart in the final stages. The faults lie more in the episodic script by Qiu Yan 邱滟 (who wrote Zhu’s Love You Cai Hua 爱上油菜花, 2010), which after a promising start fails to fuse its various elements into a dramatic whole and to give a real feel for the Hokkien community for which Hong Kong’s North Point district is well-known.
On a technical side, the clean, good-looking HD photography by d.p. Ai Zheng 艾政 is impressive, and the editing by Wang Wujun 王武军 smoothly knits together the succession of short scenes. But this technical expertise highlights the staginess of the script, whose dialogue is often too fact-laden and expository when it should be more natural and drawing character.
Within the highly controlled mise-en-scene, however, individual performances are good, especially on the female side. Now in her late 40s, onetime beauty queen-turned-Category III actress Zhong Shuhui 钟淑慧 (Lily Chung, who played the victims in Daughter of Darkness 灭门惨案之孽杀, 1993, and shocker Red to Kill 弱殺, 1994) is fine as the middle-aged, devoutly Buddhist mother faced with family and financial problems, and she gets strong support from other cast members like Wang Qiqin 王绮琴 as an old Fujian friend and veteran Wu Dairong 吴岱融 (Hugo Ng, Zhong’s real-life husband) as a wealthy member of the community based around the Buddhist temple. In what could have been just a pouty-teen role, young Mainland actress Zeng Xing曾幸 also makes a mark as the son’s girlfriend.
Though the dialogue slides back and forth between Mandarin and Cantonese, there’s a noticeable absence of any Hokkien dialogue, considering the film’s theme and setting.
Presented by Beijing North Point Pictures (CN), Hunan Chinese Culture Communication (CN). Produced by Beijing North Point Pictures (CN).
Script: Qiu Yan. Photography: Ai Zheng. Editing: Wang Wujun. Music: Luo Yan. End song: Xu Junhua, Shi Renjing. Singer: Zhu Shaoyu. Art direction: Wang Ke, Bo Bo. Costumes: Sun Wenyao. Sound: Tian Kai.
Cast: Zhong Shuhui [Lily Chung] (Min), Zhou Lang (Li Wei), Wu Dairong [Hugo Ng] (Xie Youcai), Lin Junjian (Wenjie, Min’s elder son), Zeng Xing (Xiaoyun, Wenjie’s girlfriend), He Ling (Li Lili, Li Wei’s wife), Ouyang Aolin (Xiaowu, Min’s younger son), Shi Jueneng (Buddhist temple head), Wang Qiqin (Xia, Min’s friend), Li Xiumei (Hong), Zhong Mengying (Xiaoyun’s aunt), Wu Shengjian (Xu), Zeng Xiaoyan (Xu’s wife), Xiao Hong (Min’s father), Du Xiaozhen (Min’s mother), Zeng Yechun (Nini), Li Qihua (Xiaowu’s schoolteacher).
Premiere: Shanghai Film Festival (View China), 18 Jun 2011.
Release: China, 4 Nov 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 15 Aug 2011.)