Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beyond Our Ken (Hong Kong 2004)

Feeling like one of the most indie-style films I've personally ever seen out of Hong Kong, Beyond Our Ken (公主復仇記), is an interesting performance piece for both Gillian Chung and Tao Hong. A story of two women, the man that did them wrong, and the resulting emotional fallout.

Things start off with Ching (Gillian Chung), meeting with Shirley (Tao Hong), and explaining that she used to date Shirley's current boyfriend, Ken (Daniel Wu). The reason she wanted to meet with Shirley was to explain to her that Ken might not be as perfect as he seems to be. Ching explains that after sleeping together, Ken posted pictures of the two of them on an adult website, which resulted in her getting let go from her job. Shirley, naturally resistant to the claims Ching is making, soon starts to realize that they both have had the same experiences with Ken. He used the same lines and the same moves on both girls. Ching wants Shirley's help at getting the nude photos that Ken took of her because she's afraid that he may post more in the future. She tells Shirley about all of the horrible things he did when he was with her and how Shirley needs to stay on her toes unless she wants to be hurt as well. Ken is definitely deserving of the ill-feelings both girls share towards him, because he's clearly a womanizer, a point both girls find clearly evident as they continue to share stories. Meanwhile, Ken goes about his relationship with Shirley oblivious to the two girls meeting with each other and actually starting to build a friendship. Out of the blue, Ching calls Shirley and tells her that Ken has posted more photos of the two of them in the nude, and Shirley is a sympathetic ear in Ching's time of need and is now, more than ever, willing to help her get the photos back. Still in possession of Ken's house key, Ching takes Shirley along to sneak into his home while he's at work, with only Ken's Grandma as an obstacle. So what becomes of Shirley's relationship with Ken? And is Ken really as horrible as the girls seem to think he is?

That is the whole synopsis in a nutshell, of course without giving away any specifics. Beyond Our Ken, directed by Pang Ho-Cheung, is filmed in a interesting, criss-crossed fashion, with transitions between past and present that ultimate piece the story together for the viewer. There are a few big reveals in the movie that make it necessary to be filmed in this manner as to not ruin things from the beginning, and when you see what's really going on, it takes the proceedings into an entireley different direction. Needless to say, it's all really engaging stuff. The acting on display, especially from Gillian Chung and Tao Hong, is fantastic to the point where you couldn't expect more. I believe this was Tao Hong's first major film and she comes out like a true professional, and with Gillian Chung, previously dismissed as just a cheesy popstar, she dismisses her critics with a truly impressive performance as well. There is a slightly amusing irony in reviewing this film now, as the story of Beyond Our Ken seems to run parallel to the real sex scandal that Gillian got caught up in with Edison Chen back in 2008. Where is she now? It's really a unfortunate mess. Regardless, the emotions on display in the film are portrayed in way that seems wholly realistic, leaving you feeling somewhat empathetic.

With a creative sense of cinematic flair, Beyond Our Ken, proves that you don't need a huge budget, special-effects, or even a huge cast of big name stars to make a really great movie. It is however, a perfect example of how the core ingredients of a good story, fantastic performances, along with smart pacing and cinematography are all you need. (Lee)

Grade: A


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