With my departure time for travel to Hong Kong and then on to Yangshuo, Guanxi Province, China, only hours away, I’d thought I share one of my favorite Hong Kong films with you. You can watch it from the comfort of your own homes, and save the cost of an airline ticket to Hong Kong. Both Netflix and Blockbuster have it as a DVD rental, or you can buy it from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.
The film is called Lost in Time. The stars are Cecilia Cheung and Lau Ching-Wan. Directed by Derrick Yee, this 2003 release is not your usual Hong Kong movie. There’s no action, or car chases, shootouts and the like. There’s not a whole to laugh about and when you do laugh, it will be in joy instead laughing at something silly.
To set the film up for you – Cecilia Cheung has the role of Holly Lam or as she’s called on the video’s audio, Siu-Wai. As the film opens we see her waiting at a mini-bus terminal. She’s not waiting for a bus to go somewhere. Instead she waiting at the terminus to hand off a meal to her fiance, Ah Man, who is played by Louis Koo, who drives a mini-bus full-time for a living. Within a minute of the film’s opening, Ah Man’s mini-bus is hit cross side by a truck, and moments later, he dies. We do see Koo as Ah-Man in some flashbacks later on, so while he does die at the film’s outset – this is not the last of what we see of him.
That’s not much of a spoiler – in fact it was how the film was marketed. Holly is stunned – instead marrying Ah Man and becoming the mother to Ah Man’s little son Lok-Lok, or as he is called in the subtitles, Laurie, she’s now an almost widow, as well as a single parent. She decides to repair and drive Man’s mini-bus herself.
Only she knows nothing about the business. She does it because her love and attachment to Ah Man was so great that she’s going to live not only her own life, but his as well. She going to be both the mother and the father to little Laurie. Her stubbornness is both a strength and a weakness, and has led to her alienation from her own father. But it isn’t easy. The work is tiring. The passengers hassle her, give her fake money, or even ride the bus and get sick from drinking.
Beyond that she doesn’t know the in and outs of driving a mini-bus. She has to learn the myriad of traffic laws in Hong Kong, has to avoid crossing paths with the Triads who rigidly control the routes these mini-buses may operate on, and has to avoid being ticketed for infractions by the Hong Kong cops. This on top of the mortgage on the mini-bus, the insurance, the maintenance, plus rent, plus tuition for Laurie’s school, plus the general cost of living in a city.
In short – Holly is facing a monumental struggle, and she’s losing the battle. Enter Dai-Fai, or Hale as he’s called in the subtitles, played by Lau Ching-Wan. He too is a mini-bus driver. He offers advice. He trains her on how to operate a mini-bus business. Little by little his assistance becomes greater and greater. As does her need to call him for something.
Hale is almost too good to be real. He immediately bonds with little Laurie who is played by Daichi Harashima, who, once you see him, you’ll rank him as one of the cutest five-year old actors ever. Lau plays the role as an average Joe – just another guy amongst the millions who live and work in Hong Kong. And that’s part of the beauty of this film – all of Hong Kong’s glitter, and beauty, and spectacular sights play no part in this movie. This is about real folks and real life.
Holly is an attractive woman. Yet Hale helps her without having any apparent or even underlying motives that might bring the situation to a different level – more like a relationship than colleagues. There’s no sexual element at all.
So we will follow this drama along. Holly will struggle, and Hale – he has his own demons to contend with. But it takes a while for us to learn about these. But Cecilia Cheung’s performance is so splendid. She’s simply remarkable as a woman who has been dealt a cruel blow. Her unspoken determination is almost fierce with its intensity, so when things begin to go wrong for the character, you are drawn in deeper and deeper. Holly’s role is a celebration of the actress’s skills, so after you have watched her in this film – you won’t be surprised to learn that Ms Cheung won two of Hong Kong’s highest awards for best performance by an actress for this role.
Whereas Hale’s role is more of a credit to the screenwriter. This is not to say that Lau Ching-Wan’s performance is by the numbers, or that anyone could have taken this role. The trick of method acting, and what we want or hope for from the performer, is that we will ultimately forget which actor we are watching because we are absorbed into the character. Lau as well as Director Yee were nominated but didn’t win for Actor, and Director.
On top of that – Cecilia Cheung was nominated for her singing performance for the song Forget the Unforgettable, which played over the closing credits.
I think this was a simply remarkable film – a common story beautifully told, and beautifully performed. This is not simply a tear-jerker, or a romantic drama, or even a family drama – it is all of those, and as you’ll discover, the overall film is greater than the sum of those parts. Treat yourself to a fine 109 minutes. Watch for some excellent acting by the folks who play Holly’s family in small roles.
The title is especially meaningful. Lost in Time is about letting go, leaving the past, and living in the present. As most of us already have, or are about to, or will suffer the loss of love, or the loss of a loved one, then we all of have experienced what the characters in this film do. That’s what makes this film so poignant, so universal, and so really unforgettable.
Below is the Youtube clip of the Lost in Time Trailer.