The voices of women have been sorely lacking in Hong Kong cinema. Female directors have Ann Hui (Summer Snow, The Way We Are) to aspire to, but not many of them have been able to reach her level of success.
Kearen Pang may be the new female directorial voice that Hong Kong needs. A star playwright, Pang made her film directorial debut last year with 29+1, an adaptation of the play that she wrote, directed and performed 91 times over multiple runs.
Originally written just before Pang turned 30 herself, 29+1 is about the lives of two Hong Kong women on the cusp of their big birthday. We first meet Christy (Chrissie Chau), a career woman juggling new work responsibilities, caring for a father with Alzheimer’s and watching her relationship with her long-time boyfriend fall apart. Pang introduces Christy with a rapid-fire montage detailing her morning pre-work regime, an exhilarating sequence that immediately sets the film apart from the play.
Christy’s outlook in life starts to change when she reads a diary left behind by her new flat’s previous tenant, Joyce (Joyce Cheng), a peppy music shop assistant who seems unfazed even in the worst circumstances.
Pang played both roles in the stage version, but she passes the acting duties here to her two stars, which creates a sharper contrast between the two characters. Chau deftly handles the emotional rollercoaster of a woman constantly on the verge of breakdown, while Cheng is adorable as the eternal optimist. Pang’s experience as an actress and a theatre director guides the two actors to their best performances to date.
29+1 is a rare female-led Hong Kong film that isn’t a Sex and the City clone focusing on romantic entanglements. Instead it takes a bittersweet look at expectations that Hong Kong women face in both their professional and private lives, and the disappointments that inevitably follow. It’s one of the best Hong Kong films of the year.
Need to watch something to get you through your journey? Check how you’re feeling from our handy list of entertainment-related symptoms
Restless Traveller Sydrome
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Altitude-Adjusted Lachrymosity Syndrome
It’s a physiological fact – we get weepy at 35,000 feet. Why fight it?
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Fear of Missing Out
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