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Clement Sze-Kit Cheng,
Kuan Tai Chen,
Teddy Robin Kwan
Four protagonists, two generations and two continents are interwoven in Merry-Go-Round, a grand yet intimate narrative about leaving and returning. It starts in San Francisco, where Eva works as a traditional Chinese doctor, and young, roaming Merry hears that she has leukemia. Both return to Hong Kong: Merry looks up Allen, with whom she had previously corresponded, and gets a job in the Tung-Wah guardhouse for coffins run by the grumpy Hill. Eva tries to prevent the same Allen, her cousin, from selling the family business. In the meantime, the older woman thinks back to an affair she had in the 1930s. Written by
International Film Festival Rotterdam
This is the story of two women, two generations apart, who coincidentally return to Hong Kong from San Francisco where they had their first, fleeting encounter on the streets as strangers. Back in Hong Kong they meet again, still a brief encounter, when one buys Chinese herbal drugs from a store owned by the other. Their lives are actually much more connected, through two unrelated men, as the audience will soon find out.
Eva (Nora Miao), a nurse also conversant with Chinese medicine, left for San Francisco decades ago in a self-initiated altruistic mission, reluctantly leaving her young lover behind. She now returns after hearing news that her grand nephew Allen is trying to sell their old family Chinese herbal pharmacist store. Allen (Lawrence Chou) explains that his motivation is just as altruistic as hers for deserting Hong Kong decades ago. Eva sets out her conditions Allen is to work at the store, doing anything she wants him to do, for one month, at the end of which she will sign the property away. He accepts.
Nam (Ella Koon), a punkish young girl and also a drug abuser diagnosed with leukaemia, decides to come back to meet in person a young man she met on Internet, using a pseudo name Merry. She wants to make sure that he will remember her after she dies. That young man happens to be Allen whom she approaches under her real name, saying that she is bringing him letters from a friend call Merry. Looking for a place to stay while in Hong Kong, she finds job and board working for a grouchy keeper (Teddy Robin) of a charity institution, in a setup that keeps unknown deceased in coffins until relatives come to claim them, in many cases to be shipped back to the Mainland for burial. This man turns out to be the young man Eva left behind, who has gone through his more-than-fair share of vicissitudes and is still hoping to see Eva again before he dies.
This is basically the intriguing web of stories, but there are more related stories such as the reason Allen wants to sell the store and the events that so embittered Teddy Robin's character.
The story is told in a languid, artsy styles which, while not totally mesmerizing, manages to hold the audience's interest. Most remarkable is the photography that, using a soft, warm glow, removes all the morbid feeling from the coffins, turning them into something that looks almost cheerful. This heart-warming photography in turn feeds an upbeat mood, despite all the tragedies in life. Performance is uniformly good. Deserving special mention is Ella Koon who plays two very different characters, not only Nam, but also young Eva in the flashbacks. It may not be generally known that in addition to being a Canto-pop singer and screen actor, she is also a good occasional stage actor. I've seen her in a stage adaptation of "Dream of the Red Chamber" where she capably held her own acting against three of Hong Kong's best.
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