A lovely little light comedy drama from Hong Kong, showcasing some both old and new talent.
“Crossing Hennessy” is the story of Loy (Jacky Cheung), a 41 year old man, with a somewhat dysfunctional lifestyle. Somewhat lazy and unmotivated, he is somewhat under the thrall of his mother, whilst living with his aunt, and missing the guidance of his deceased father. He has never really gotten over the loss of his last serious girlfriend (Maggie Cheung Ho Yee), and is suffering under his families desire to match him up. We join him on the latest official match making exercise, to Oi-Lin (Tang Wei), a young girl who is also struggling with the desires of her wider family to get her married off, as she is deeply involved with Xu (Andy On), a handsome young man with a penchant for violence and currently in prison.
This film is the closest thing I have seen in Hong King Cinema to a Woody Allen film – not in the sense that it is full of witty one-liners (it is very amusing, but not in that way) – but rather it is a slice of life, with the struggles of a middle-aged man, painted against the backdrop of an interesting city (Hong Kong here rather than Allen’s beloved New York). This is an urban Hong Kong we do not see enough of, a Hong Kong of daytime, of real people. I really feel this is a side of the island we see far too rarely.
Jacky Cheung has made a few appearances in this blog recently, and this shows yet another string to his bow. His Loy is a man who is actually quite comfortable in his life, but is struggling against the desires of his family, especially his overbearing but loving Mother. He is also under the thrall of his ex-girlfriend, who re-enters his life, and with whom he reignites his relationship, although he eventually realises he is clinging to the ghosts of something past, that this is going nowhere.
Tang Wei is the real revelation. She made her name in the Ang Lee “Lust, Caution”, which eventually cost her her career, as she was blacklisted by the mainland authorities. This is her comeback film, and she is wonderful. Her character is by turns bold and brassy, sullen and unresponsive, gentle and fragile. You totally buy into her character’s journey. She is an orphan, wanting to please her Aunt and Uncle, but at the same time she has found protection under the arms of Xu. What she realises is that she needs more than that, more than the physical.
I also really enjoyed Maggie Cheung Ho Yee (I am using her full name so we don’t confuse her with the other Maggie Cheung!) – her role is a difficult one, as it is quite clear she is a manipulator, using those around her to improve her own situation. But it is a subtle manipulation – I don’t sense evil here, more someone who wants to rebuild her life, someone who is using the foundations of the past to perform this resurrection.
The film has some structural weaknesses – the story of the Mother surprisingly comes far more into the foreground after about an hour, for me that change was not quite signalled enough. It does not come out of nowhere mind you, but rather it rose to the top just at the time you were wanting to see more of the main protagonists.
Don’t come here if you are looking for action or big laughs. This is a small story in a big city, and one that does not have a definitive conclusion. It does however offer that most important commodity – hope. Recommended