Paw Hee-Ching

Crossing Hennessy (月滿軒尼詩)

crossing hennessy

Hennessy Road is the main thoroughfare in Wanchai and bisects the vibrant Hong Kong Island district. Strolling down the street can be like stepping into a Hong Kong tourism video, if you have the right eye for things. Unfortunately, writer-director Ivy Ho lacks a sharpness with the camera that she has with the pen. Her film is one that might have yielded lush visuals to accompany its subjects. Stretches of Hennessy are paneled with glossy skyscrapers across from which sit stubborn pawn shops sweating paint curls. There are walk-ups squished resolutely between luxury apartment complexes while rusty stalls selling electronic bits or fish food bookend certain blocks. Meanwhile, a scramble of gamblers, foreigners, and elderly footballers provide a rhythmic soundtrack to the sights.

Such vividness is lacking in Crossing Hennessy though, and Wanchai instead comes across as a generic part of Hong Kong or any Asian city for that matter. The tram, which famously dings its way from one end of the island to the other, crawls through a few scenes but there’s little significance except to denote that the action takes place in Hong Kong and not in Kowloon or the New Territories.

What Ho fails to capture on camera, however, she compensates with careful attention to her flawed characters, most of whom would make awkward to uncomfortable lunch dates. That is how Loy (Jacky Cheung) and Lin (Tang Wei) are initially thrown together. Loy’s relatives, headed by his strong-willed mother Mrs. Chiang (Paw Hee-Ching), are determined to put an end to his bachelor days, but it’s a hard task given that he’s a perpetual man-child, that fortysomething who still needs to be roused from bed in the morning. They seek out the owners of bathroom supply store (Lam Wai and Margaret Cheung), ostensibly on the other side of Hennessy, eager to find a good partner for their niece, Lin. As far as practicality goes, it’s a good match; Loy’s family runs a household electronics business, so in addition to a new in-law, there’s also the latest model toilet or dehumidifier to be gained.

The first date over dim sum includes all their family members and goes off course when Loy insists on poking happy faces into his custard bun and Lin dresses like a frumpy kid who’s just discovered her mother’s makeup drawer. Still, they meet again out of obedience. There are no sparks, neither from romance nor from great dislike, and in fact, the two spend a lot of time feeling indifferent towards one another

One reason is that Lin is already attached. She’s devoted to her boyfriend, Xu (Andy On), who is serving time for assault, and arranges for his post-release life with care. Meanwhile, Loy continues to long for his childhood sweetheart (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee), a newly divorced, well-to-do photographer. These are relationships nearing or past their due dates, and it’s not clear how long the partners will hold out.

That’s not how a romantic comedy usually unfolds, which, despite its marketing, this movie is not. There is little rush to show Loy and Lin’s compatibility even when they find a few things to bond over – a love of murder mysteries, their meddlesome relatives, their love lives. Certain audiences will dislike the way the script proceeds at a snail’s pace, but sometimes there is more story in the process of friendship than in a paint-by-numbers romance.

It actually helps, for once, that there is a sizable age gap between the two leads, widening the distance between them and making their relationship all the more improbable. But when they grow closer, it never becomes creepy or perverse, thanks to some nuanced performances. Cheung is adept at playing an emotionally stunted adult haunted by the loss of the two affirming relationships in his life (with his ex and his father, played by Lowell Lo in dream sequences). He overplays it a bit at times, but he conveys the core of his character effectively. At the other end of the spectrum is Lin, and Tang breathes maturity into her character. She has an easy intimacy with Cheung and On even when her onscreen persona does not. The script doesn’t allow her to stretch her part too far, but in holding back, she still lets Lin’s emotions peek through.

A peppery supporting cast adds to the simmering partnership, and Paw is at the center. Brash, demanding, and selfish, she draws attention in every way. You wouldn’t want Loy’s mother to raise you. So it’s no wonder why he’d rather be spoiled by his spinster aunt, a familiar role that Mimi Chu gives aching personality to. Uncle Ching also gets caught in Mrs. Chiang’s net. Danny Lee plays her accountant cum lover, or maybe it’s the other way around, with equal parts adoration and exasperation. They are a whirlwind that occasionally disrupts the stasis, and like the rest of this movie, a reflection of the fits and starts that mark ordinary life.

“Lucky in Love” by Jacky Cheung:

Released: 2010
Prod: Yee Chung-Man 奚仲文; Cary Cheng 鄭劍鋒; Cheung Hong-Tat 張康達
Dir: Ivy Ho 岸西
Writer: Ivy Ho 岸西
Cast: Jacky Cheung 張學友; Tang Wei 湯唯; Paw Hee-Ching 鮑起靜; Mimi Chu 朱咪咪; Danny Lee 李修賢; Andy On 安志杰; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Lowell Lo 盧冠廷; Lam Wai 林威; Margaret Cheung 張瀅子; Kwok Fung 郭鋒; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健; Derek Tsang 曾國祥; Maggie Siu 邵美琪; Cheuk Wai-Man 卓慧敏
Time: 105 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015