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Aberdeen - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hoeng gong zai zi

Hong Kong 2014

Drama, Comedy

Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung

Louis Koo
Gigi Leung
Miriam Yeung
Eric Tsang
Ng Man-tat
Lee Man-kwai
Carrie Ng
Chapman To
Shawn Yue
Dada Chan

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Story: Cheng Wai-tao (Louis Koo) is successful in his job and has a loveable family. However, he is bothered by the fact that his daughter (Lee Man-kwai) isn't really beautiful and therefore will have a hard time in life. He even fears that she isn't his real biological daughter. His wife Cici (Gigi Leung) knows more about the reason for her looks, yet she doesn't manage to tell her husband about it. Furthermore, she struggles as a former model to gain ground as an actress at her age.
At the same time Wai-tao's sister Wai-ching (Miriam Yeung) still suffers from her deceased mother not having loved her. Her husband, physician Yau Kin-cheng (Eric Tsang), tries to help her, but he also has an affair with one of his employees. Moreover, Wai-tao's relationship with his father (Ng Man Tat) isn't that good anymore since his father has a new girlfriend in the owner of a house of pleasure. It seems impossible for the family to sit at the same table in peace, but slowly the familiy tries to look for solutions.

Review: Pang Ho-Cheung is one of the few directors who manage to give their works something extraordinary. "Aberdeen" is a family drama with slight comedy elements, but what makes the movie so appealing is its dreamy, contemplative nature which feels like a warm summer breeze carrying you away. Seldomly you are presented with melancholy in such a pleasant way that the word itself doesn't seem to be the right choice. Probably there will be some viewers who will be bothered by the fact that some things fall into place in a little bit too easy manner and that we actually don't get a teary drama here. But that's just what makes "Aberdeen" so touching as a family drama. We don't get easy answers, but those we get seem to be the only ones we could expect because they are honest, and that again can create some sort of inner peace.

Aberdeen - Film Screenshot 11

Maybe all of this might sound a bit pretentious, and Pang's movie surely isn't perfect, but the life of a family whose individual members all carry their own problems around is still explored in a surprisingly profound way at times. In doing so the characters are all elaborated well enough that every single one of them is believable in their own right, but have comprehensible relationships and relationship problems with each other. Only between brother and sister there is somehow some sort of gap, but an alleged reason for that is given later on in the story. Strictly speaking it is even a surprise how well director Pang manages to flesh out so many characters despite a compressed running time of 97 minutes while also weaving together the individual stories in such a way that they make a whole in the end.

Aberdeen - Film Screenshot 12

"Aberdeen" centers around the place that you want to be in in life, the simple people's search for meaning in life. People who have to struggle with their very natural share of problems. None of the characters are perfect. There is a father, played by Louis Koo ("The White Storm") who is worried that his daughter will have a tough time later in life because of her ugliness and who accordingly even doubts his fatherhood. His wife, embodied by Gigi Leung ("Turn Left, Turn Right"), is an aging actress who lacks real talent and who apparently would have an easier time if she would sell her body at meetings with directors that involve a lot of alcohol. Miriam Yeung's ("Love in a Puff") character wonders why her mother never loved her and Eric Tsang ("2 Young") plays a doctor who has an affair. They are all interesting characters that make you wonder about their fate.

The drama's appeal stems from the will to uncover the motives of the individuals' behavior and despite a slow pacing Pang also succeeds in keeping things in motion at all times. This is also the result of his almost trance-like rhythm which, in a fantastic way, he can keep up until the very end. The great pictures, which always have something dreamy about them because of especially bright light sources, are mesmerizing as well. Particularly Peter Kam's very well composed soundtrack is to be praised for adding a lot to an extraordinary atmosphere. Kam already successfully established an amazing symbiosis with the pictures in Pang's "Isabella". Moreover, the individuals are written and played so well that it's a pleasure engaging in their complex lives. Even the more as questions are touched upon that everyone will (or should) find interest in.

Aberdeen - Film Screenshot 13

Consequently, "Aberdeen" can be suprisingly profound. There are a few metaphors, which, however, are often served on a silver platter and accordingly can also seem a bit mundane. But there are some nice dream sequences that are seamlessly implemented into the movie and leave room for some interpretation work. The toy city plays a pivotal role, since it is recurring with different characters. Next to the serious tone of the drama there are also a few nice humoristic scenes. One important question in life is even answered with a flaw in "Star Wars" lending a helping hand. At the end the movie leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling, although you could criticize "Aberdeen" for taking the easy road with its resolutions at the end. Despite the criticism Pang Ho-Cheung has done a great job, though, and created a warm and dreamy drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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