This is a film I have been meaning to talk about since the inception of this incarnation of the blog. The recent decision of Karena Lam to retire from movies inspired me to go back and have a look.
“Inner Senses” is a tale of two halfs. Initially we meet Yan (Karena Lam) a young girl troubled and lonely, who is being haunted by Ghosts. She is introduced to Jim Law (Leslie Cheung), a Doctor who is sceptical about the existence of ghosts (he believes they are just a way society labels certain memories). Jim helps Yan beat her obvious mental issues, although they do rather unethically fall for each other. However, it seems that Jim has been bottling up some secrets from the past of his own, and in the second half of the film he starts to encounter a ghost all of his own.
The film is blessed with two fantastic actors in Cheung and Lam and they both manage to create believable and empathetic characters that change over the duration of the film, and the supporting cast are also watchable. Cheung manages to be both charismatic and tortured, whilst Lam gives you a sense of someone aware of her demons and trying hard to beat them. Lam is always an interesting actress, usually going for some quite “different” roles, never relying on her obvious yet somewhat unique good looks.
It also manages to fit in a couple of rather decent scares, especially in the first part of the film, although these WILL lead audiences to feel that this is yet another Asian Ghost story, which actually is quite far from the truth.
There are also a couple of other issues I have with the narrative. Jim works out that a lot of the issues that Yan is suffering are being exacerbated by the actions of her fellow tenants – now this might be true, but seems to ignore her previous issues (the script suggests suicide attempts and some rather controlling behaviour with previous boyfriends). More worryingly is the ease in which the two enter a relationship that is more than Doctor/Patient – Not only is it seemingly one sided, but it is actively encouraged by Yan’s uncle (who is also Jim’s collegue and best friend) – this just seems somewhat wrong and unethical to me.
I think the main issue when looking at “Inner Senses” is that it will always be overshadowed by the death by suicide of the star, Leslie Cheung. Cheung was a Hong Kong superstar, both in terms of film (of which he will get lots of mentions here) and musically. Although he is often paired with all the great beauties of Hong Kong Cinema, Cheung was gay, in a society that did not fully accept homosexuality. I don’t know the full reasons for his suicide, but he ended up taking his life in a way that echoes the ending of this film (there is some debate whether this is actually his final film, but it is close enough in my book).
The other issue is that the film is obviously marketed to be an oriental “Sixth Sense”, which is rather wide of the mark. Yes they both deal with people who see ghosts, but this is more of a psychological drama than a clever horror story.
At the end of the day it is a very good movie, but falls short of being great. Recommended