26 January 2007 | Camera-Obscura
Effective Hongkong melodrama by Johnny To
THE STORY OF MY SON (Johhny To - Hongkong 1990).
Seen at the IFF Rotterdam, 25 January 2007.
Social drama from the prolific duo Johnny To and long-time companion Wai Ka-Fai, better known for their Hongkong crime films. The story is based on the Italian film INCOMPRESSO (1966) by Luigi Comencini, reset in late '80s Hongkong about a widower (Damian Lau) who is trying to raise his two young sons on his own. He's mostly preoccupied with his work and has gambling debts. He gets himself into serious trouble when he loses a huge sum of money on the horse-races and turns to some dangerous loan-sharks in order to repay his debts, which leads to a dramatic downward spiral dragging his two sons with him in the process.
In many ways this is run-off-the-mill Hongkong drama, but it's still surprisingly effective, if a bit overly melodramatic at times, with the same music playing every other scene to underline the emotional impact of the events. There's also a bit too much focus on the interaction between the two kids who are something like 5 and 12 years old. The younger kid is very cute, but I would prefer to have seen a little more from the father, Damian Lau, who is quite good in the leading role. It seemed that half the screen time was made up of the two sons ramblings when their father was away. Perhaps a little more than the two young leads can handle. Most other characters consist of little more than stereotypes, but - as mentioned - Damian Lau is very convincing, as are the two kids, and that's enough to make it work. The plot is told in a simple straight-forward fashion, quite an absorbing story, but don't expect a deep multi-layered approach. The violent resolution is a bit over the top and slightly out of tune with the rest of the film, but it's not unlike your average Hongkong crime flick. So perhaps, it was to be expected.
Camera Obscura --- 7/10