What a Day!
China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 95 mins.
Director: Wang Xiaokun 王啸坤.
Comedian Fan Wei shines in this absurdist comedy of manners about a suddenly wealthy deliveryman.
Xiamen, Fujian province, southern China, Saturday 1 Apr 2017. Deliveryman Fan Chu (Fan Wei), a divorced middle-aged man who lives with his teenage son Fan Di (Liu Junhao), wakes up on his birthday and has an eventful day, full of bad luck. However, it ends with him winning RMB50 million on the China Welfare Lottery, so he goes to bed very contented. Next morning, however, no one can remember seeing him do the things he did the day before, and when he goes to collect his lottery winnings he can’t find the ticket. In fact, the date is still 1 Apr, known as April Fool’s Day in the West. He needs the winnings, however, as his son has been signed up by his schoolteacher (Jia Jingwen) to take part in a competition in Japan; that will cost RMB5,000 – which is all Fan Chu has in his bank account. Next morning he wakes up and it’s still 1 Apr. The doctor says there’s nothing wrong with him, so he goes through the day again, but this time without buying a lottery ticket. However, he’s forced to pay his boss RMB5,000 compensation for losing a delivery – which empties his bank account. Next day it’s still 1 Apr, but his account contains RMB5,000. Fan Chu realises that if he continues to live 1 Apr over and over again, always starting the day with RMB5,000 in his bank account, he can enjoy life to the full. So he decides to eat, drink and be merry. And then a friend arranges a blind date for him.
An absurdist comedy of manners on sudden wealth and how to conduct oneself in the event, What a Day! 有完没完 finds veteran Mainland comic Fan Wei 范伟 in a tailor-made role and Hebei-born singer Wang Xiaokun 王啸坤, 29, making a confident debut as a writer-director. Where the recent Mr. No Problem 不成问题的问题 (2016) showcased Fan’s gift for eliding the border between comedy and drama in the role of an oily, totally insincere farm manager, Day! mines the actor’s Everyman side, here as a divorced deliveryman with a teenage son who suddenly finds himself in financial clover. An offbeat look at New China’s nouveau riche phenomenon, Day! is a modest but likeable character comedy with a human touch.
On the big screen, Wang is best known for a series of supporting roles in high school/college movies, as one of an ensemble – Forever Young 怒放之青春再见 (2014), My Old Classmate 同桌的妳 (2014), Youth Never Returns 既然青春留不住 (2015), Mates 睡在我上铺的兄弟 (2016) – so it’s refreshing that he’s struck out in a completely different direction for his directing debut. Though the film starts out through the eyes of the teenage son, it quickly becomes a one-man show for his father, Fan Chu, a blue-collar stiff with an eye on the main chance who seems destined to remain a financially strapped nobody.
After sketching a day in Fan Chu’s life – his birthday, which should be a happy event but is full of ups and downs – the script by Wang and TV drama writers Yang Manzhu 杨曼珠 and Zhang Zixuan 张子璇 bolts on a surreal element: Fan Chu wakes next day to find he’s stuck in a time loop, endlessly re-living his birthday. The good news is that he now starts each day with RMB5,000 in his bank account, however much he spends the day before. What at the halfway mark looks like becoming just another get-rich-quick satire, then takes an interesting turn: a friend arranges a blind date for the newly-eligible Fan Chu, who finds that manners, not just money, make the man.
Though it’s lightly handled here, the theme of wealth vs social conduct is a pertinent one in present-day China, and thanks to Fan’s skilful performance and the opportunities presented by the screenplay the film’s latter stages have an emotional undertow between the more extrovert comedy. Much is also due to the elegant playing of Taiwan TV drama actress Jia Jingwen 贾静雯, 42, – so good as the professor’s lawyer wife in (Sex) Appeal 寒蝉效應, 2014 – who comes through strongly in the second half. The film is also rich in supporting cameos, from Fan Chu’s harridan boss played by Shanghai presenter Fan Tiantian 范湉湉 (the blousy older hooker in One Night Only 天亮之前, 2016), through Lin Gengxin 林更新 as the smooth-talking lottery-shop owner, to half-Chinese comedian-presenter Mike Sui 隋凯 (Three Weddings 爸爸的3次婚礼, 2016) as a struggling MC. As Fan Chu’s teenage son, newcomer Liu Junhao 刘俊昊, 18, doesn’t make much impression; this weakens the subplot of Fan Chu looking for his son’s respect, though, to be fair to Liu, the theme is not given much development in the busy script.
Though set (and partly shot) in the large southern city of Xiamen, the film has an intimate, neighbourhood flavour that fits its character-comedy tone. The Chinese title refers to the endless cycle of finishing and re-starting into which Fan Chu is locked. Though April Fool’s Day is not a long-established concept in Mainland China (where it’s known as yúrén jié 愚人节), it gets a mention in the script, and the film itself was released on that day. Box office, however, was a very mild RMB37 million.
Presented by Beijing Skywheel Entertainment (CN), Beijing Whale Image & TV Culture Media (CN), Tencent Penguin Pictures (Shanghai) (CN), China Movie Channel (CN). Produced by Beijing Whale Image & TV Culture Media (CN).
Script: Yang Manzhu, Wang Xiaokun, Zhang Zixuan. Photography: Wang Zhengjun, Jiang Nan, Xie Jianfeng. Editing: Du Yuan, Qian Fang. Music: Liu Zhou. Art direction: Bai Zhiyong. Styling: Zhang Mengxi. Sound: Lin Siyu, Wei Kaiwen. Action: Zhou Zhong. Visual effects: Su Yang, Xu Xiaobin. Executive direction: Cao Hanchao, Wu Junxian.
Cast: Fan Wei (Fan Chu), Jia Jingwen (Qi/Miranda, schoolteacher), Liu Junhao (Fan Di), Mike Sui (Mr. Fugui, MC), Song Yang (Chun, petty gangster), Fan Tiantian (Tian, Fan Chu’s boss), Kong Lianshun (lottery-shop cashier), Zhao Yingjun (apartment security man), Xu Xiaoyi (cake-shop employee), Lin Gengxin (Xiaoxin, lottery-shop boss), Xue Zhiqian (Heping/Qianqian, suicidee), Song Zu’er (pickpocket victim), Chai Wei (Xiaowen, Fan Di’s schoolgirl friend), Li Junhao (Xiaoshao, schoolboy), Liu Yutong (Xia), Zhang Mei’e (old woman in traffic accident), Yu Xiao (doctor), An Yuexi (dancer), Hong Binghuang (sister’s husband), Cao Hanchao (brother-in-law), Su Han (MC).
Release: China, 1 Apr 2017.