One of my favourite films of last year was the delightful “Gallants”, which looked at the heyday of Hong Kong action movies with a modern eye and a respectfully nostalgic wink. So, I was very interested to see Director Derek Kwok’s next film. I was a little concerned to see the synopsis suggested a sci-fi bent (now I am a nerd, but I am not that big on sci-fi as a genre except in special cases), but as ever, I came to the film with hope.
“Frozen” starts as the story of a young girl called Wingz (Hong Kong Pop-Star Lan Wei). A perky and filial (and yes, after all those Chinese films, I have finally used the word ‘Filial’) young girl, she has been raised by her scientist Father and Grandfather, as her mother had died when she was born. Sadly, her father (Alfred Cheung, in a rather tender and far too short role) dies, telling her that not only is he not actually her father, but also leaving her the key to a warehouse. She follows his lead, and discovers and accidently awake her mother, who has been cryogenically frozen for the last 20 years “while medical science catches up”. Her mother, Monica (Janice Man) has no memories of the last 20 years, and is desperate to find Wingz’s real father, Kit (Aarif Rahman in 1989/Leon Lai in the present day). He has been devastated by her “death”, and has become a transient, living rough under a bridge. Can she re-awaken the man she loved from his mental hibernation, just as she has been awoken from her medical one.
Thankfully, the sci-fi element of this film can be pretty much ignored. It is just a way to get the characters on the page. When the film works it is lovely. The tenderness between Wingz and her father/grandfather is a delight, as are the scenes, although slightly saccharine and nostalgic, set back in 1989 between Monica and the young Kit. The use of Leslie Cheung and his music is also a nice touch. the Leon Lai version of the modern day Kit is a little less interesting, being as he spends most of his screen time in a daze. However, credit must be given to a very good Nightclub scene!
I think I struggled a fair bit with the fact that Monica just was able to adapt to her status as having lost 20 years a bit too easily. Whilst I perversely liked that they did not make a big deal about it, it maybe should have been some part of the story. It also felt all a little fractured, with the film unsure what story to concentrate on. Wingz is given a real back seat in the second half of the film, with little time being given over to the mother/daughter bond. Alfred Cheung’s death also seems to happen off camera – his “adoption” of Wingz, and his 1980’s relationship with Monica should also have been explored a little more. Neither was I convinced that the two Kit’s were the same character, sure people change a lot in 20 years, but I think I would have liked to have seen a little more visual similarity to sell the illusion.
But there is an undoubted tenderness to the story, a tale of love lost, and how to deal with bereavement. But at each turn I felt things were underexplored, the film was in an awful hurry. It is rare I think a film could do with a little more time, but another 10 minutes really might have helped. It also concentrated far too much on the Monica/Kit relationship, with the arrival of a new Father in Wingz’s life barely given any mention at all.
There is a sadness of course throughout the film, and it ends pretty much the way it has to. But I was not affected emotionally as I think the film-makers intended A Character dies, inevitably, but just as with the loss of the Father early on, there is a disconnect between the characters and their emotions. And that sadly means, I, the viewer struggle to care as well.
It is an OK film, but it didn’t charm me in the same way “Gallants” did, so a Mild Recommendation.