Hong Kong/Malaysia, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 88 mins.
Director: Huang Guohui 黄国辉.
An interesting idea doesn’t fully succeed in this four-in-one collection of Hong Kong vignettes.
Hong Kong, the present day. Since his father (Wu Yaohan) had a stroke, Chen Jiahui (Lin Jiadong) has been running the family’s old photoshop, Licheng [Lai Shing] Studio 丽诚影室. One day he’s visited by an old childhood friend, Li Zhijian (Pan Canliang), who’s now a real-estate agent and tells Chen Jiahui his father agreed to sell the property before he was struck dumb. Chen Jiahui doubts the story and kicks Li Zhijian out. But the latter won’t go away, and the two men start reliving memories of when they were both young and Chen Jiahui’s father photographed them. Meanwhile, actor Hu Dixuan (Guan Chuyao) and actress Wang Ying (Chen Jing), who used to be a couple, find themselves in the same film, 喜欢你 (“Loving You”), playing a Hong Konger and a Mainlander who have been dating for six years but can’t actually tie the knot. The actors’ own past relationship keeps getting in the way and they start arguing during takes. But when they start to film romantic flashbacks, they both remember the early days of their own relationship. Meanwhile, womanising internet celebrity Yang Tianle (Sun Yaowei) meets a young woman (Jiang Jiamin) in a nightclub and they go back to his flat. Only when he’s chained to the bed, however, does she inform him she’s actually his biological daughter, born in Toronto, from a brief relationship he had at university 20 years ago. She wants to know why he didn’t want her when her mother informed him she was pregnant. Meanwhile, Luo Wangyue (Ye Peiwen), a work colleague of Li Zhijian, is proposed to by her boyfriend Yu Weiwen (Guo Weiliang). However, she can’t bring herself to accept, as she just can’t stop thinking about work the whole time. She visits a fortune teller and a clinical psychologist to try to sort herself out.
Four vignettes with a common theme – why can’t people sort out their problems in a civilised way? – receive varying treatment on the writing side in The Moment 此情此刻, a first feature by longtime TVB writer/script editor Huang Guohui 黄国辉. Strongly cast and played, and raising some interesting issues, the film just about goes the distance at 90 minutes thanks to its name cast and classy visuals. Though the bumpy scripting by newcomer Du Ruirong 杜瑞榕 (who takes sole credit) doesn’t always do the individual stories the justice they deserve, the film is still an interesting enough big-screen debut by Huang that shows no traces of his TV background.
The linking element for all four stories is an old photo studio that forms the main setting for the most substantial story – an epic set-to by two old childhood friends who find themselves on opposite sides of the fence in a property dispute. Cannily underplayed by Lin Jiadong 林家栋 [Gordon Lam], one of Hong Kong’s most under-rated actors, as the studio’s self-doubting manager, and equally cleverly overplayed by theatre/TV actor Pan Canliang 潘灿良, as the never-say-die property agent, the story deals with male friendship and filial pride in a comic but ultimately touching way, with veteran Wu Yaohan 吴耀汉 [Richard Ng] adding discreet touches in flashbacks as the manager’s father.
Another interesting idea is also broached in the story of a philandering celebrity who suddenly finds himself (literally) tied up by a young woman who claims to be his daughter from a brief affaire 20 years earlier. She only wants to know one thing: why did he not want her all those years ago, when her mother told him she was pregnant? Though the question seems typical of the me-generation, it completely floors the self-absorbed celebrity, leading to an extended, and often very amusing, twosome between the two, played with the right mixture of irony and feeling by Sun Yaowei 孙耀威 [Eric Suen] as the father and TVB actress Jiang Jiamin 江嘉敏 as the determined daughter. Along with the photo-studio story, it best expresses the theme of how spending time together can often be better than endless threats or over-defensiveness.
The other two vignettes don’t reach the same level. The story of a work-obsessed property agent who can’t commit to marrying her boyfriend is a nice idea but weakly developed, though performances by (real-life couple) singers Ye Peiwen 叶佩雯 and Guo Weiliang 郭伟亮 [Eric Kwok] are strong. Most conventional and filmy of all is the story of two actors (Chinese Canadian Guan Chuyao 关楚耀 [Kelvin Kwan], Hong Kong’s Chen Jing 陈静) who find their feelings for each other reawakened by playing lovers in a movie. Though the deliberately stilted film dialogue is well observed, the story itself has no dramatic momentum.
Overlaps between the stories are limited to moments when characters visit the photo studio, some of which seem natural, others more forced. Playing into Hong Kong’s current nostalgia trend, the old studio is beautifully fitted out by art director Feng Shufen 冯淑芬 (Hot Summer Days 全城热恋 热辣辣, 2010; Revenge: A Love Story 复仇者之死, 2010) and subtly photographed by d.p. Hu Chengye 胡成业, who adopts a slightly different but ultimately unifying look for each story.
The individual vignettes are smoothly intercut and not given titles of their own. The film received the same amount of finance (some HK$2 million) from Hong Kong’s Film Development Fund as the recent baseball indie Weeds on Fire 点五步 (2016), though its final budget was larger, roughly HK$9 million. The Chinese title literally means “This Feeling This Moment”.
Presented by MM2 Entertainment (MA), Top Entertainment Production (HK), Film Development Fund (HK). Produced by The Moment Film Production (HK).
Script: Du Ruirong. Photography: Hu Chengye. Editing: Huang Muheng. Music: Lin Junhui, Chen Yubin. Art direction: Feng Shufen. Costumes: Lu Min’er. Sound: Lian Wenming, Ye Bingcun, Lin Hanzhao. Visual effects: Guan Zhuohao (Post Production Office).
Cast: Lin Jiadong [Gordon Lam] (Chen Jiahui), Pan Canliang (Li Zhijian), Chen Jing (Wang Ying), Guan Chuyao [Kelvin Kwan] (Hu Dixuan), Sun Yaowei [Eric Suen] (Yang Tianle), Jiang Jiamin (Liang Jiamin/Yolanda Moore), Guo Weiliang [Eric Kwok] (Yu Weiwen/Raymond), Ye Peiwen (Luo Wangyue/Monica), Wu Yaohan [Richard Ng] (Chen Chu/Charlie/Richard, Chen Jiahui’s father), Chen Shaoxia (Liang Huiyi, Liang Jiamin’s mother), Shao Yinyin [Susan Shaw] (Sophie), Chen Weixiong, Li Kaixian (gangsters), Li Xingni (Lao Jie/Sister Lo), Lan Yibang (Chen Yibang), Mai Jiayu (Feifei/Fifi), Zhang Keyi (Wylie Li, clinical psychologist), Tan Yuying (fortune teller).
Release: Hong Kong, 15 Sep 2016; Malaysia, 29 Sep 2016.