SWEET HOME (2005-HK)
review by Neo
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can be beautiful and dreadful to remember...
Escaping into a world of our own is a specialty that Neo constantly seeks. However, while it is ok to escape once in a while, one must be able to pull themselves out of it and facing the reality again. Traumatic memories can never be truly erased, but pretending that something good is happening when it is not can be extremely depressing. Reflecting upon the state of Karena Lam's character, she has clearly not lost her mind, but rather she is so hurt internally that it has numbed her feelings and gone beyond the state of depression. The problem with escaping is that it is only temporary as I stream through two movies non-stop last night, the duration allowed me to totally escape. However, as it reaches the end and the credit rolled, the depressed state and troubled soul within me came gashing back like an arrow shot at my heart. Last year, director Soi Cheang caused a spark within the film critics circle with - Love Battlefield and it is only true to say that Soi has a talent for inflicting emotions within the audience. While in Love Battlefield (a movie Neo absolutely loved) turned a typical romantic drama into an absolute emotional romantic thriller, here Soi made a horror into an emotional self-discovery experience.
The movie goes like this: Taiwanese actress Shu Qi (Three Times) plays May, a young mother who moves into a new apartment complex with her family. But no sooner have they settled in than May's young son goes missing. It transpires that he has in fact been kidnapped by a hideously deformed woman (played by Hong Kong beauty Karena Lam, from Koma, in a mountain of grotesque make-up) who believes him to be her long lost son. May is forced into the ducts and vents of her apartment building to track down her boy, and confront this other terrifying, yet equally bereaved, mother.
Starting off at a rather slow pace and like Love Battlefield, it all seemed cliché, until all of a sudden, switching from shock horror suspense into a heart warming flashback into the seemingly villainous character. Rather than follow the typical suit of allowing the audience to fear and care for the victim, Soi cleverly switches the attention to Karena who donned an utterly unbearable face. It is a stroke of genius that Soi juxtaposes contrasting situation, by showing Karena as a serial killer, then in another moment caring for a child. It is these moments of warmth that cut out the brutal images of the coldness of Karena's character that cause mixed emotions of both hatred and ultimately caring and feeling sorry of the fate of her character.
As much as we want to move on from the past, it is ultimately inescapable - the past is what defines your character and the ongoing maturity of one's self through years of endurance and experiences. Perhaps, sometimes we just want to forget and we try so hard to forget who we really are or were - just like Karena - unable to accept what has happened, is shown in a perfectly ironic scene as Karena took a look at the mirror in disbelief of what she has become. Memories are part of our lives, some people tend to forget the good memories and remember the bad ones, and personally I do not know who i really am. I tend to remember the great moments that exists in my life, but in the corner of my inner soul, my memories of regrets and missed opportunities are forever there.
Karena Lam puts in a much layered performance - touching, sensitive, ugly, intolerable, yet inspiring. Perhaps people may think that it is pessimistic the way she ended her life, but in a way, it was probably the best solution to a problem that she can not face. It was not until moments near the end that Karena finally realise the "truth", the reality and it is sad yet inevitably happy that the only solution is death. It is a performance that will capture the inner soul of humanity, not through her beauty of her outer shell, but a heart felt performance that she managed to pull off immensely difficultly yet effectively. On the other hand, Shu Qi and the others are only adequate compared to Karena. Then again, I am bias fan of Karena, ever since her natural performance as a carefree high school girl in July Rhapsody.
It is funny how its been a month since my last review, and since a lot of things has happened - sometime things happen so fast that your mind can not keep up to it and sometime it is better to escape into another world and come back with a clearer mind to embrace the beauty of the world, the sky and the people in front of you. Karena Lam was unable to come back to reality, until moments before her death, but the fact that she did come back, redeems her character and further inflicting emotions within me. In life there is always hope, no matter what religion you believe - one thing remains true - never give up on yourself, no matter how bad the situation seems to be. Home Sweet Home is a movie that caused yet another stir within Neo's heart - overwhelmed and wooed over by the tears within my soul. While the movie did not reach the heights of Love Battlefield, but one thing is certainly, it almost and nearly wooed me over and perhaps it already did. It once again reminds me of the reason that I watch movies, not just to escape, but to experience the experience. As someone who have been a "go with the feel" type of person, I must say... I like this movie a lot.
I rate it 9.75/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Director: Director: Soi Cheang
Cast: Shu Qi | Karena Lam | Alex Fong
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), December 2005