Rose, a Shanhainese songstress singing at nightclubs in HongKong during the 60's, marries an Australian sailor and migrates with her young son and daughter to Melbourne. Her past filled with lost innocence, she begins a cycle of dependence and desperation to create a family for herself and her children, culminating with her affair with Qi, an illegal immigrant from HongKong. Watched through the eyes of her young son, the mother's journey reveals painful truths about the human condition, the love of family and self, and the price we pay for growing up.Written by
A television documentary, "Beyond the Pack Ice" (1968), is seen on a television during the film and is mentioned on the credits. This documentary looks at the work performed by the Australian Antarctic research team based at Mawson Station in the late 1960s. See more »
Tony Ayres has tackled some tough subjects in the past (AIDS and mercy killing in"Walking on Water" for example), but making a film about his relationship with his own mother seems a real challenge. Ayres' mother, fictionalised as Rose in the film and played by Joan Chen, was a beautiful nightclub singer in Hong Kong, who, more or less on a whim, migrates to Melbourne with her two young children and Bill, an Australian sailor (Steven Vidler). Rose and Bill marry, but Rose walks out after a week. Seven years later they get together again, but Bill is soon off on another extended tour of Naval duty and his malicious mother Norma drives Rose and the children, ten year old Tom (Joel Lok) and 14 year old May (Irene Chen) out of the house. Desperate, Rose and the children go to live in squalor with Joe (Yu Wu Qi) a handsome young illegal immigrant from Hong Kong who works in the same restaurant as Rose (who has been reduced to washing dishes there.). Initially Joe is besotted by Rose, but when he starts taking a romantic interest in May, Rose, as she is wont to do, overreacts.
As the story is told largely through the eyes of a ten-year old, we have to remember that, smart kid that he is, there is much he does not understand. Late in the film, in a conversation between Rose and May, we do get some of Rose's story and why she looks for security from just about any man who offers it. Looking back, the adult Tom can see clearly what at the time was a mystery. And of course he can now forgive Rose for the trauma she caused him.
This is a sad story, but uplifting rather than depressing. Joan Chen, a world-class actress, is perfectly cast and totally convincing as the beautiful but neurotic Rose. Yu Wu Qi is excellent as her younger lover, but first time actor Joel Lok (who volunteered himself for the role) takes first prize for a truly Zen like performance as Tom. Kerry Walker was a suitably disapproving Norma and Steven Vidler an eager and naïve Bill.
For a low budget "art" film, this is very well produced, with a fine original score, professional cinematography and excellent performances, though the script does not allow Kerry Walker and Steve Vidler to do much. Most of us survive our parents, and Tony Ayres and his sister have survived theirs, but I think you can't really pass judgment on them until you have had children yourself. And then it is easier to forgive.
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