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Original Title:
Fan yi cho

Hong Kong 2000

Romance, Comedy

Riley Yip Kam-Hung

Takeshi Kaneshiro
Kelly Chen
Eason Chan
Vincent Kok
Audrey Mak
Terence Yin
Cheng Pei-pei

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Story: Athena (Kelly Chen) grieves about her deceased boyfriend Andrew and nobody seems to be able to get her out of her state of misery. However, one day an angel (Takeshi Kaneshiro) falls from the sky through the ceiling of her apartment. At first Athena can't believe her own eyes, but then it seems indispensable that she takes care of "Angel"'s broken wing. Yet, even if he is fully recovered again Angel has to wait until the gate to heaven opens again. Until then Angel stays with Athena and in return helps her with her perfumery business.
Soon, Angel starts to get sick, because he can only survive if he gets the love of other people and Athena with her freezing and rejecting character can't provide him with that. Her gay neighbor Chow Chow (Eason Chan) proves to be a better friend. Moreover, he also knew Andrew and so with time Angel starts to realize that he has to heal Athena's broken heart before the heaven's gate opens again. Yet, despite divine assistance this proves to be rather difficult, because Athena argues that Angel doesn't know what "true" love really is about...

Review: The story might sound a bit cheesy and in the hands of a Hollywood director it would have become just that for sure, but Riley Yip approaches the subject with enough heart and wacky humour, that the movie stays within the limits of what's bearable, even during the emotional scenes. The fact that "Lavender" is about an angel might let some viewers lose interest in the film, but actually it is not as bothering as one might expect. Maybe that is because an Asian angel just doesn't radiate that much of the typical kitsch-factor most of us can't stand to see, or maybe it's because Takeshi Kaneshiro's boyish-charismatic performance is just refreshingly different.

The humour is one of the movie's strong points. Without a doubt you will be amused when Angel builds up a reputation as a stripper, whereas he doesn't care about the money he gets, but is only after the "love" he gets from the women. His best friend is Chow Chow who of course instantly starts to hit on Angel and if nothing else at least gets to know that gay people in fact also have a place in heaven. Angel doesn't seem to be interested in neither women nor men. Kaneshiro almost manages to portray an asexual being, who is in need of love like others need food. Naturally, it's only in the course of the film that he really gets to know what the meaning of "true" love is, but until then several amusing minutes pass by in which the angel slowly starts to become a shoe-fetishist or with Chow Chow as his companion paints the town red.

"Lavender" works because of its actors. Kaneshiro's almost childish and naive portrayal of an angel is pretty good. He is allowed to make use of his characteristic charm and with Kelly Chen he has found a worthy partner. She is also pretty convincing as the reclusive and suffering young woman, whose grief is slowly going to eat her up from the inside.
Of course, Chen once again looks breathtakingly beautiful, but it's especially in her more emotional scenes that she can prove that there is in fact an acting talent hidden in her.
Eason Chan plays the comical supporting role. His wacky character can be quite unnerving at times and his portrayel as a homosexual might be a bit to clichéloaden. Nonetheless, his character fits very will into the story.
The chemistry between Kaneshiro and Chen is nice, even though Athena is sometimes as freezing as a fridge. At least their "relationship" undergoes some development and so there are also some abstruse moments that can deliver quite some laughs. For instance there is a scene in which Angel and Athena are stuck on a crane several meters in mid-air, because the remote control fell down. It's just then when Athena suddenly really has to go to the toilet. However, there are also more tactful moments, e.g. when Angel asks Athena to mix a perfume that reminds him of his home - heaven.

Technically there are no real flaws to be found in the movie. Some of the CGI-effects concerning the angel wings or several pairs of dancing shoes are very respectable and add to the sometimes odd, but pleasant atmosphere of the film.
The change of mood in the last half hour of the movie when Athena and Angel go to Rome is a little bit unusual, though. Yet, at the same time we get so see some of the most memorable scenes here. The field of lavender or the vision of Andrew, that Angel bestows upon Athena are without a doubt beautiful scenes.
The ending also isn't that predictable and even offers a small nice twist.

"Lavender" has its share of fine moments, can be emotionally touching and even make you laugh at times. However, it does so only in small doses. Thanks to the actors and the fitting directing of Riley Yip the movie is above average, but you shouldn't expect anything more. Trivial, insignificant, yet amusing entertainment with charismatic actors will guarantee for a nice evening, nonetheless.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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