This is one of those little gems that occasionally falls on my lap. I approach it with no preconceptions and it turns out to be one of those films that just leaves me beaming while watching it.
“Just One Look” is set on Cheung Chau, a small island near Hong Kong, and revolves around the residents of the town, and the focal point, a cinema.
Recent Things Fall Apart mainstay Shawn Yue plays Fan, a young man whose Policeman father committed suicide in the toilets of the town cinema 10 years ago. Due to a misunderstanding he believes that his father was murdered by the local gangster, Crazy (Anthony Wong), and harbours thoughts of revenge – so for 10 years he takes the chance to hit Crazy with rocks from his catapult. Whilst his story is the main thrust of the movie, it never really takes over the tale until the conclusion, and even then, not in the way you might expect.
Anthony Wong is brilliant as the small town thug, and if he was just that, it would be enough. But towards the end of the film we discover he is wracked with self doubt, and the birth of his son shows that he is not totally satisfied with his lot in life. It is a little moment, but totally in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film.
We even have both those TWINS girls in supporting roles – Gillian Chung is a young woman closeted away in a nunnery, who finds love with Yue’s character. Charlene Choi plays the daughter of a man who sets up his own Kung Fu school in the town – she has a crush on Yue, but it is his best friend that holds a torch for her. They share the screen for barely 5 seconds, and in a lovely touch this is the catalyst for a TWINS song to join the soundtrack – I think this is the first time I have ever heard their music in a film in which either of them star. They are small, supporting roles, but important to the forward narrative.
The whole look of the film just exudes 1970’s Cheung Chau. Not just in the scenery and set design, but the film stock, and the way that films of the time are referenced and re-imagined. It just feels like a film made in the 1970’s with 2002 film technology. As a child of the 1970’s myself, it really warmed my heart. It is playful when talking about Kung Fu cinema, and ever more on the button when showing the fights between the young men (one scene shows two young men up against each other, both pulling exciting and film-inspired stances, only for their fight to actually turn out to be a totally ineffectual wrestling match).
This isn’t a film that will change your life, but you’ll be hard pressed not to enjoy it for what it is – a lovely feel-good, nostalgia-fuelled piece of cinema.
And then there is the ending. People have moved on, people have passed away, but in a call back to one of the opening scenes we get just a touch of hope for the future, and a smile to match that which was on my face as the final credits rolled.