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¤p (2000)
Crying Heart

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 11/23/2000

It would be hard to pack more phony emotion, contrived plotting, and affected acting into one motion picture. Crying Heart is ostensibly a tearjerker, but the only way to survive from beginning to end is to treat it as some grand tongue-in-cheek comedy. Adding to the hilarity is the Supporting Actress statuette for Best Supporting Actress and the nomination for Best Script at last month’s Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, proving that critics in Taipei are somehow in on the joke. Of course, if the film does well at the box office, it is producer/director/writer Wong Jing who will be laughing all the way to the bank.

In the tradition of the sobbing heroines she perfected in such 1980s Cantonese pictures as The Truth and its sequel, Deanie Yip returns to the screen in the weepiest role of all. Mrs. Fat (the character’s name sounds better in Chinese) is not only abandoned by her husband, poor, in the final stages of cancer, and bald from chemotherapy, she is the sole support of her mentally retarded son, Bee (Patrick Tam Yiu-man). Bee is a handsome 30-year-old with the intelligence of a pre-schooler, the age group most suited to enjoy the subtlety and nuance of Crying Heart. Mrs. Fat is so worm-like in her acceptance of the hand fate has dealt, so obsequious and whiny, that this viewer found himself rooting for her early demise. At one point, Mrs. Fat laments to the rainy skies, “When are you going to take me back?” Alas, she lingers on for nearly half-an-hour, as if even the heavens above hesitate to open the pearly gates for this irritating creature.

Among her tormentors in the squalid housing estate is the nasty couple across the hallway. May (Suki Kwan Sau-mei) is as obnoxious as she is curvaceous. Her hunky drug-pushing boyfriend Tim (Jimmy Wong Ka-lok) is downright mean. After Bee develops a crush on “Sister May”, the duo teaches him a lesson by spray-painting his genitals. Mrs. Fat takes all this in stride, babbling interminably as she removes the stains with paint thinner.

The cast is rounded out by Blackie Ko as Bee’s errant father. He is a selfish S.O.B., which is about as honest as the film gets. Unfortunately, by the movie’s end he turns “lovable”, and that’s a bit much to swallow. Ko had a huge hit last year with the song “Stupid Little Kid”, which is the movie’s theme song and also Crying Heart’s Chinese title. The song is strong enough that it survives being associated with this film.

Added to the overly manipulative emotionalism is some extremely sloppy plotting. Tim is murdered after stealing and concealing a stash of heroin, yet the drugs are allowed to remain hidden in an obvious place for several months, until the filmmakers deem it necessary for them to be found. Perhaps the director assumed that the audience would be so wrapped up in the drama that no one would notice.

True, much is going on to distract the viewer. Not only is May shot in the head and brain-damaged, she is pregnant to boot. The thespian challenge presented by the script would give even Meryl Streep pause. Not that Suki Kwan will ever be mistaken for Meryl Streep. The sight of May, recently discharged from the hospital, struggling to walk in her expectant state, and slurring her words as she converses with the mentally challenged Bee, should be required viewing by students at the Academy for the Performing Arts under the heading, “Don’t Let This Happen to You”. The film as a whole could be similarly instructive to aspiring auteurs in the Special Administrative Region and beyond.

This review is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 04/21/2000
Summary: Horrendous.

Think about it for a second: a drama about the mentally disabled, written and directed by Wong Jing. Has a scarier sentence ever been written? Unfortunately, the finished product is just about as bad as the basic idea.

Judging from its filmic output, Hong Kong is a decade or two behind the United States in terms of sensitivity to the plights of various minorities. While "Crying Heart" is, at least in theory, sympathetic to the mentally retarded, Patrick Tam's portrayal (like his Legend of Speed stutterer) basically consists of acting childish and letting his mouth hang open. It's hard to know whether his exploits are supposed to be funny or not. Are we supposed to laugh when Patrick develops an interest in breasts? I'm not sure even Wong Jing knew.

When the slim plot finally kicks in around the 30 minute mark, (because, hey, a retarded man and his sick mother aren't a very good story by themselves) its inevitable (and sickening) conclusion is instantly predictable. You'll pray it won't happen, because it's just too stupid, manipulative, and unbelievable... But it does. No big surprise, just the final insult in a film that insults the audience and its subjects throughout. Depressing both in terms of content and as a piece of work.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 12/30/1999
Summary: A movie for Deanie and Patrick

In recent years, there have been a number of movies scheduled for a January release that have been shown in the theatre for a day before the actual New Year. For example, there was SHU Kei's "A Queer Story" and last year Fruit CHAN's "The Longest Summer." Now we have "A Dumb Boy" and "Little Cheung." The main purpose for such an arrangement is to allow a movie to qualify for the up-coming Film Awards, the rules of which require that a movie to be shown at least a day in a theatre during 1999.

Following "A True Mob Story," "A Dumb Boy" is another drama from WONG Jing. The story concerns Mrs. FAT (Deanie IP Tak-han), a women whose husband (KO Shau-leung) is in prison while she cares for a mentally-disabled boy, Bee (Patrick TAM Yiu-man). Mrs. FAT is suffering from the final stage of lung cancer. As the title character, Bee is always being treated badly by his neighbors. One day, he finds that he is in love with May (Shooky KWAN Sau-mei), but May and her triad friend paint Bee's penis. Aware that she will die soon, Mrs. FAT worries about what will happen to Bee since he does not seem able to care for himself . . .

The main selling point of "A Dumb Boy" is Deanie IP who has just won in the best actress category at the recent Taiwan Golden Horse Awards. In addition, after playing a series of bad guys, Patrick TAM Yiu-man is trying to change his image.

Plot-wise "A Dumb Boy" is smooth but not outstanding. The first half of the story focuses on Mrs. FAT while the latter half of the story is about the relationship between Bee, May, and Mr. FAT. The storytelling is smooth enough to make the movie comfortable to watch. However, "A Dumb Boy" is too overt in its desire to create a climate of tragedy. The music score used during some key scenes is artificial. In addition, the use of a thunderstorm to show the tragic nature of Mrs. FAT's position is also all too obvious. WONG Jing has intended to make the drama impressive, and in this he has done well. However, the audience would be impressed more if he had made the story a bit lighter at the beginning. Any successful drama needs some comic relief, especially at the beginning of its story. WONG Jing attempts this, but he could have gone further.

On the positive side, WONG Jing allows the different characters adequate and proportional screen time in the movie. Mrs. FAT is the main character of the movie and a tragic one. First, she knows that she will die soon. Second, she has to take good care of Bee and protect him from the discrimination of the public. Third, she has to find a person to take care of Bee. Deanie has done an excellent job in portraying this character. Her performance in the scene during which she instructs Bee not to play with May is quite impressive.

Patrick TAM Yiu-man portrays "the dumb boy" Bee in the movie. Although this type of character is not entirely new to him (see Andrew LAU's "The Legend of Speed" (1999)), he has more opportunity to act here. His performance is also good. Patrick is proving that he can act in other kinds of movies. However, perhaps the greatest surprise of the movie comes from Shooky KWAN Sau-mei during the second half of the movie. Shooky has been in show business as "the troubled woman." Here she succeeds in changing her image.

In short, though the plot of "A Dumb Boy" is not outstanding, it is smooth with a terrific performance by Deanie IP. The performances of Patrick TAM and Shooky KWAN are also good enough to make this film worth your time.

Written by Ryan Law, from Hong Kong Movie DataBase, on 29 December 1999.