My Wife is 18 (我老婆唔夠秤)

my wife is 18

“My wife is 18” sounds more like something one confesses at a police station than the title of a movie, and not a very good one at that. It isn’t, but for a film whose primary gag is an arranged marriage between an eighteen year old high schooler and a thirty year old layabout, it squeezes out a few surprises that make it worth the while.

The movie’s a little slow going at first, even though titular wife Yoyo Ma (Charlene Choi) bounces into the opening scene. She’s a bubbly Tasmanian devil of a girl, overwound with cuddle and perk. She is also on the cusp of adulthood and suffers from a frightening inability to enunciate. Her mother has called her to England for a matchmaking session with Thirteen Cheung (Ekin Cheng), the much older son of a good friend. Thirteen is an aspiring intellectual who has been slogging away at his masters thesis on the very unambiguous subject of “women” for the last eight years. This necessarily means he’s shit at relationships, shit at academics, and has a shit adviser.

His scholarly failings don’t prevent him from going through with the marriage though, and he does this mostly to appease his elderly grandmother. He and Yoyo agree to divorce a year later, but in the meantime, he gets to mine his new wife and her gaggle of girlfriends for research. He moves back to Hong Kong and shacks up with Yoyo in her conveniently enormous flat that she occupies by herself. Thirteen also maneuvers his way into a teaching position at her all girls school.

Despite their age difference, they make a surprisingly compatible pair. Thirteen fits snuggly into the Judd Apatow man-child mold. While he is probably more responsible than the average Seth Rogan character and exhibits some protective instinct over Yoyo, he gets on unusually well with the schoolgirl. He might not find her girlish antics endearing, but he is willing to take a lot in stride. Unlike most men his age, Thirteen doesn’t mind skipping about Causeway Bay in moonboots or sliding around a grocery store to dodge a coworker. In fact, he and Yoyo conspire at length to keep their relationship secret from friends and teachers. Above of all, Thirteen is likable. Cheng keeps his character on balance. He’s a guy who’s willing to help set-up his wife with her crush but fumbles his own feelings for a colleague. He takes all his roles seriously, as a grandson, a husband, a teacher, but doesn’t always know how to reconcile these duties.

The best surprise of this movie though is Yoyo and Choi’s portrayal of her. Yoyo deceives at first by behaving like a cookie cutter of a Hong Kong girl. Instead of speaking properly, high pitched sounds dribble out of her mouth. She is also prone to unreasonable demands that others accommodate, presumably because she’s just so damn cute. But halfway through the movie, Yoyo begins to reveal a fragile side. She shows herself to be a regular teenage girl, one who feels hurt and insecure but who still blusters her way through because that’s what young people do. It’s not the most polished acting by Choi, but she lays aside the histrionics in favor of an affecting and honest, but not at all ostentatious, performance. For the integrity of her character alone, Choi wins one for the girls and makes this movie worth the effort.

Released: 2002
Prod: Chan Hing-Kar 陳慶嘉; Jimmy Law 羅國強
Dir: James Yuen 阮世生
Writer: James Yuen 阮世生; Chan Hing-Kar 陳慶嘉; Law Yiu-Fai 羅耀輝
Cast: Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健; Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍; Stephanie Che 車婉婉; Bernice Liu 廖碧兒; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Sandy Lam 林姍姍; May Lai 賴信慧; Richard Ng 吳耀漢; Lee Fung 李楓; Vonnie Lui 雷凱欣; Mak Chi-Hung 麥子杭; Peter So 蘇民峰
Time: 104 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014