Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat (六樓后座)

truth or dare

Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat doesn’t seem like it should be relevant or revealing. Six twentysomethings played by aspiring A-listers to solid D-listers share a dingy flat and spend the year trying to fulfill their goals. They also throw lots of parties, during which raucous games of Truth or Dare figure prominently. The film nevertheless proves to be a refreshing portrayal of Hong Kong youth and has more honesty than any number of its glossier counterparts.

Things really get cracking for the new residents of the eponymous flat when a round of Truth or Dare goes awry. They agree to accomplish something “new” and “challenging” by the end of their one year lease – or else eat shit, literally. It’s a pretty serious consequence for a pretty vague dare, but accepting goes without question.

Director and co-writer Barbara Wong proceeds to peel away the rough exterior of each character. Rather than capitalizing on the distasteful challenge as lesser films would, she allows the hopes and insecurities of her characters to be the focus. And despite a full six personalities, Wong somehow manages to maximize their screentimes and give a satisfying sketch of each one.

Still, a few parts get a little more attention than others. The even-tempered writer Karena (Karena Lam) puts aside her good sense when she develops feelings for her publisher, a married man she’s never seen. Lam is great in this role, allowing her character to be headstrong while leaving herself emotionally vulnerable. Meanwhile, Karena’s best friend Candy (Candy Lo), a shiftless tarot card reader, has the opposite problem when two police officers (William So and Edwin Siu) compete for her attention. The three actors form an odd and not entirely believable love triangle, but Lo eventually makes good on a flighty character who keeps her feelings well hidden.

Though he’s the least flashy of all his flatmates, Leo (Roy Chow) turns out to be one of the most affecting characters. Chow gives a sensitive performance as the quiet, gawky friend who secretly holds a flame for Karena. There’s something of an injured bird in the way he moves, his lanky frame filled with an overabundance of unrequited love. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Sammy Leung, who plays a depressed clown nursing bitter feelings towards his childhood love, and Patrick Tang, who spends his time scheming to make more money. If you are familiar with their acting, you know that they tend to blast their way through every movie, and their performances here again lack the subtlety to be truly moving.

My favorite character was Wing (Lawrence Chou). The son of wealthy parents, he is on hiatus from medical school in America when he decides to slum it with his friends and try to pursue a music career. He has an antagonistic relationship with his mother (Teresa Carpio, in an inspired cameo), whom he blames for interfering with his dreams.

His story, like the others in the movie, sounds hackneyed, but Wong largely saves her picture from melodrama because she doesn’t go out of her way to deliver searing truths about youth. In most cases, the moral would be to stick it to the parents and go after what your heart desires. But Wing and his friends show themselves to be far more attuned to reality than films usually give young people credit for. They might be a randy, aimless, and sometimes irresponsible bunch, but they are also thoughtful, loyal, and motivated.

Hastily edited trailer doesn’t do the film justice:

“6th Floor Rear Flat” (六樓后座) theme song by Karena Lam:

Teresa Carpio steals the show with a fitting cover of Beyond’s “Boundless Sea and Sky” (海闊天空)

Released: 2003
Prod: Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞; Arthur Wong 黃岳泰
Dir: Barbara Wong 黃真真
Writer: Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞; Barbara Wong 黃真真
Cast: Karena Lam 林嘉欣; Candy Lo 盧巧音; Lawrence Chou 周俊偉; Roy Chow 周永恆; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Sammy Leung 森美; William So 蘇永康; Edwin Siu 蕭正楠; Hau Woon-Ling 侯煥玲; Carlo Ng 吳家樂; Barbara Wong 黃真真; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; May Law 羅冠蘭; Kitty Yuen 阮小儀; Teresa Carpio 杜麗莎; Richie Ren 任賢齊; Juno Mak 麥浚龍; Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞
Time: 103 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014