There’s a good movie lurking beneath the surface in Tiramisu, which plays with the ideas of fate and the afterlife. Jane (Karena Lam) and Fung (Nicholas Tse) are two strangers on a train who catch each others’ eyes and cross paths several times over the course of one day. Any hope of a romance is cut short though when Jane is killed in a traffic accident. By the grace of who or whatever governs the afterlife, however, she is given a chance to fulfill some last wishes before permanently retreating to the hereafter.
The two become linked in some extra-worldly friendship because they were thinking of each other the exact moment she died. It’s a useful twist that allows Jane to help out her grieving dance company who had been preparing for an important show. Not wanting them to abandon the effort on her account, she encourages her friends by way of Fung, who relays messages and unwittingly proffers his body for her soul to inhabit. He also gets something out of it as a deaf postal worker who regains his sense of hearing.
No matter what you think of the hackneyed plot, Lam and Tse are a joy to watch. Both actors were the vanguard of their generation when this film was released in 2002, and Tiramisu shows why. They deliver sensitive performances that largely avoid the manipulation the story suggests. Lam makes it easy to believe that her whole world would be grieving her loss and that nothing short of one final, magical goodbye would help her loved ones soldier through. Her performance is bolstered by Candy Lo, who is effective as Jane’s best friend.
Tse, meanwhile, leaves a strong impression as a somewhat reserved character who finds himself plunged into a noisy world, one that he finds rather energizing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the benefit of a good second, and a preening Eason Chan fills in as Fung’s brash flatmate. Still, Lam and Tse share a chemistry that helps their characters move seamlessly between Jane’s privileged and creative life and Fung’s solitary working class existence.
If the story stopped there, Tiramisu might be remembered as a bittersweet reflection on how people’s lives can intersect in small ways with large and lasting consequences. But like a child’s madlibs, the plot is muddled by the addition of ghost cops who are out to claim Jane for what looks to be a pretty scary afterlife. This sends the movie’s tone crashing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, and the feelings don’t really work in harmony. The subplot also needlessly complicates things with nonsensical rules about when and where one can see and be seen. The genre-mixing is a bold experiment, but it doesn’t work here.
“Meditation” (冥想) theme song by Nicholas Tse:
Prod: Daneil Lam 林小明; Dante Lam 林超賢
Dir: Dante Lam 林超賢
Writer: Chan Man-Yau 陳旻佑; Ross Lee 李洛驊
Cast: Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒; Karena Lam 林嘉欣; Candy Lo 盧巧音; Eason Chan 陳奕迅; Chan Git-Leung 陳潔靈; Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Kitty Yuen 阮小儀; Lawrence Chou 周俊偉
Time: 111 min
Country: Hong Kong