HONG KONG 2010 Directed & Written by: Alex Law Produced by: Mabel Cheung Cinematography: Charlie Lam Editing: Chi Wai Chan, Chi-Leung Kwong Music: Henry Lai Cast: Simon Yam, Sandra Ng, Buzz Chung, Aarif Lee, Evelyn Choi, Lawrence Ah Mon, Paul Chun, Ping Ha, Ann Hui, Clifton Ko, Vincent Kok, Tina Lau, Tung Cho Cheung
ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is an autobiographical account of life in Hong Kong in the 60s and the struggle of a working class family in these turbulent times. The movie is told in a first-person narrative from the perspective of a boy (Big Ears): his father is a shoemaker who works hard but hardly earns enough to feed the family (also thanks to the corrupt British police force), his mother is a happy-go-lucky person helping the father selling shoes with her fast tongue, and his bigger brother is one of the most popular students, successful both in sports and in class. While other families are leaving Hong Kong for good Big Ears and his family cannot afford to do so and will have to go through an increasingly difficult period of their lives.
ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW may or may not be an authentic account of Hong Kong in the 60s (for those who haven’t been there a whole dimension of the movie is certainly lost), but it succeeds in making us feel sympathetic with Big Ears and his folks. Most of the time the script is subtle and involves the audience emotionally, lets us take part in Big Ears’ observations of family life, working life, school and relationships five decades ago. It’s the simple life and the unpretentious kind of filmmaking that sets ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW apart from many other dramas.
But as so often there’s a but: latest after two-thirds of the movie’s running time it becomes obvious that Law doesn’t really know how to dramatize his story. Once the 60s are reconstructed, the places, people, their routines and possible ambitions laid out in front of us we all realize that this is not enough for a work of fiction. It’s almost like you can sense that it strikes Alex Law at the same as the audience.
The conclusion he draws however makes things worse. First of all more and more obstacles are piled up in front of the family, to an extent that feels increasingly unrealistic. Sure, the protagonists usually have to go through more than real people as their fate is representative for all of us, but there’s always a point when enough is enough. ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW goes beyond that point and feels like a soap opera that tries to add more drama by the minute.
Secondly the movie starts to be repetitive by playing the same cards over and over. That’s when I really started to dislike Big Ears who replaces character development with crying. Get a grip. And in the father’s case scolding and screaming becomes methodological. Certainly it all starts with a good reason, but the movie never gets over it.
So the crying gets ever more, the screaming gets ever louder, the events get ever more dramatic and the movie unfortunately turns into a real tearjerker. It’s not that it is that obvious, as the overall tonality and approach don’t really change much. But the way the script runs into a dead-end and applies the most simplistic measures to counter its loopholes is anything but subtle.
Instead of taking the story to a whole new level or presenting us with a proper conclusion it gives us a big crescendo and then the story ends, coming back to some of the melodramatic plot threads about double rainbows and so forth. Did that makes sense to anyone by the way? The double rainbow did not seem to relate to anything much really; what’s supposed to be a symbol of some sort fails to transcend beyond a phenomenon of nature.
ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW could have been so much more but it mostly recapitulates memories of what life was like in the past. Maybe Law didn’t want to take the movie any further than that; I am very well aware that ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is a sincere film and not meant to be bland entertainment. However, instead of a good story that is set in the 60s we have a movie set in the 60s…and then what?
ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is kind of almost almost there – a little less almost there than other almost-there-movies. If you grew up in Hong Kong in the 60s, watch it. If not, almost almost there awaits.
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