ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW - Nostalgia Trip
ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW (drama in Cantonese)
Cast: Simon Yam, Sandra Ng, Aarif Lee, Chung Siu To and Evelyn Choi
Director: Alex Law Kai Yu
Screenplay: Alex Law
Time: 117 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: Movies often transport us to worlds of fantasy and hype. This one, however, strives for nostalgic realism, tempering yesteryear charm and familial bond with a touch of tragedy. It is not a movie for the masses but Echoes Of The Rainbow is a rare gem for film buffs who look for something different from the familiar fare.
It will take you back to the Sixties, at the time when Neil Armstrong walked the moon, and maybe wring a tear or two out of you...
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Eight-year-old Big Ears (Buzz Chung Siu To, who narrates), grows up on Wing Lee Street in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan district, where his father (Simon Yam) runs a shoe shop on one end while his uncle owns a hair salon at the opposite end. Together, they take care of their customers' top and bottom, or so they boast. (picture: Lee and Buzz Chung)
Big Ears is a pampered child who makes a hobby of pinching stuff, quite unlike his elder brother Desmond (singer Aarif Lee) who is both a model student and a top athlete in school. The narrative follows the adventures of the two brothers, with Desmond courting the pretty Flora (Evelyn Choi) - and Big Ears wearing a fish bowl on his head, dreaming of becoming Hong Kong's first astronaut.
HITS & MISSES: The first thing that grabs us is the movie's attention to detail, recreating a part of Hong Kong that vibrates with local street life and small-time enterprise. The mood of nostalgia is further enhanced by director Law Kai Yu's inclusion of catchy Sixties songs, especially those of the Monkees, that Desmond loves to listen on the transistor radio. In this world, poverty may be romanticised with the neighbourhood community gathering together for dinner but the dark side, of widespread bribe-taking and corrupt cops and nurses, is also explored.
The cast is exemplary too, with young Buzz Chung effortlessly stealing the show from Aarif Lee and even veteran Yam. Chung helps to give the film a touch of playfulness and naivete, showing us Big Ear's kiddie point of view. Lee is rather bland in his role as the 'model son' and student but Sandra Ng is in her element as the resourceful and sweet-tongued mom. I find the ending rather melodramatic and predictable. Still, it seems the only way to close the story.
This movie won the Crystal Bear Award at the 60th Berlin Film Festival for Best New Generation Film and has been nominated for six awards including Best Actor and Actress (Yam and Ng), Best New Artist (Chung and Lee), Best Screenplay (Alex Law) and Best Original Song (by Lee)
THE LOWDOWN: A rare and refreshing family movie.