Saturday, December 09, 2006

AFTER THIS OUR EXILE: A Touching Family Drama

AFTER THIS OUR EXILE (“Fu Zi” or ‘Father & Son’) (drama)
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Charlie Young, Gouw Ian Iskandar and Kelly Lin
Director: Patrick Lam
Time: 128 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

The Movie Poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Shot in Ipoh and Teluk Intan, Perak, this movie by Hong Kong director Patrick Lam feels very much like a local indie effort. It is what “Rain Dogs” could have been like if more attention had been paid to the narrative....

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? “After This Our Exile” is the story of nine-year-old Chow Lok Yuen (Gauw Ian Iskandar) who is saddled with an abusive, gambling-addict of a father (Aaron Kwok as Chow Cheong Sheng) and a long-suffering mother (Charlie Young as Ling) who is at her wit's end over their never-ending domestic problems. One day, Ling tries to run away and start a new life but the boy spills the beans to his father – and she ends up with a thrashing.
Sheng promises Ling that he would turn over a new leaf but when he is still hounded by loan sharks, Ling has had enough. Father and son return from a holiday to find Mommy gone. Left to fend for themselves, Sheng and son move to a cheap hotel where he meets a young call-girl (Kelly Lin as Ah Fong) and becomes her pimp. Yuen, on the other hand, starts pinching stuff from his friends...
Of course, Sheng could not stop borrowing from loan sharks to support his gambling habit and soon, he has to train his son to steal from friends and neighbours – with rather tragic consequences...

HIGHLIGHTS: This family drama is both touching and riveting. The simple plot (written by Patrick Tam and Tian Kai-Leung) tugs at our heart-strings and the chemistry between Kwok and Gouw bubbles throughout the show. Gouw's performance, as the innocent victim, is one that would certainly touch the heart of every parent in the audience, and Kwok, playing against type as an uncouth and uneducated bum, teems with a sense of vulnerability and false bravado. He is undoubtedly the villain of the piece and yet we feel sorry for him.
It is no wonder that “After This Our Exile” won the 2006 Golden Horse Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Kwok) and Best Supporting Actor (Gouw). Director Lam keeps the pace languid, capturing the rural Perak atmosphere of the Eighties and every nuance of life in the seedy hotel and suburbs. He punctuates many scenes with a lively piano score – and even opens the movie with the kiddie song, You Are My Sunshine, just to set the mood for the family tale.

LOWLIGHTS: At more than two hours, the movie can be a bit draggy, with repetitive scenes. However, most of us would be so involved in the story that we can overlook this flaw.

THE LOWDOWN: The movie is filmed in three versions (of differing lengths) for the Hong Kong, Malaysian and foreign markets. The Malaysian version is more than two hours long and seems repetitive but never boring. Throughout the movie, we wondered how it would end – and when it did, we just cannot complain. Many people have survived worse fathers than Sheng – and what remains is the ability to forgive.


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