Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Lost and Found
Cinematographer: Bill Wong Chung-bo
A life-affirming and genuinely heart-warming drama, Lost and Found has the kind of storyline that one hesitates to relate to friends for fear they will dismiss the movie out of turn, particularly as it sounds like an imitation of C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri. It is definitely more than that and ranks among the United Filmmakers Organization's best productions to date. 23 year-old woman Chai Lam has been diagnosed with leukaemia and is given only a 30% chance of recovery. One day she sees a man fishing a wallet out of a garbage can. He turns out to be a Mongolia-born "lost and found" expert whose name translates into Cantonese as "That Worm." A gregarious sort, Worm (who knows nothing about Lam's condition) tackles the woman's request that he find Eurasian sailor Ted, whom she last saw four days ago. She has become interested in Ted and his home, the Scottish island of St. Kilda, which consists mostly of graveyards. When her rather cold and distant father refuses to allow her to continue working, Lam throws away her medication and decides that she would like to visit the island, which is known as "The Edge of the World." She and Worm are eventually able to track Ted down just as he is about to fly back home and take over running the family inn. Before she accepts Ted's invitation to visit him on St. Kilda, Lam helps Worm to try and grant the wish of a young girl, whose mother is in the hospital and on the verge of death.
Lam's terminal illness can be interpreted as a metaphor for the countdown to the July 1, 1997 reunification, with all of the uncertainty that date posed for HK's citizens, and Lost and Found is primarily about life, love, and identity. While the film has its share of quirky moments, writer/producer/director Lee Chi-ngai displays a steady hand when it comes to sentimentality, keeping things from going too far in any direction, thus readily allowing the viewer to be drawn in and moved by the characters, their observations, and the imagery. The Scottish locations are predictably beautiful and effective use is made of different musical styles (particularly Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love," which is heard several times). The performances are all on target; even the usually hapless Michael Wong does good work, though one is hard-pressed to believe that he has a drop of Scottish blood in him. Depending on how receptive you have been to everything preceding it, the final sequence just might reduce you to tears, but it is a good cry in both senses of the term.
Image courtesy Mei Ah.