Review: A Journey Called Life (TVB 2008)
Producer: Leung Choi Yuen
Genre: Modern Series
Number of episodes: 20
Cast of Characters
Kent Cheng as Kam Shek
Steven Ma as Sing Yat On
Linda Chung as Sze Ka Ka
Fala Chen as Sing Mei Sum
Raymond Cho as Kam Wing Loi
Angelina Lo as Chin Sau Ching
Mary Hon as Ho Bo Ling
Helena Wong as Sing Mei Yee
Kwok Fung as Sze Lap Chi
Helen Ma as Yeung Dai Fun
Eric Li as Cheung Chun Wing
Stephen Wong as Cheung Chun Hing
Minnie Cheung as Cheung Lai Kuen
Hoffman Cheng as Cheung Chan Keung
Halina Tam as Tin Na
Johnson Law as Chu Tin Chak
Elaine Yiu as Ching Hoi Shan
Cheng Tse Sing as Tung Ka Cheung
Johnny Ngan as Cho Tim
Queenie Chu as Keung Ma Kei
Yvonne Ho as Gloria
Amy Ng as a make-up lady
Shermon Tang as Stephy (eps14 & 20)
Claire Yiu as Doctor Ho (eps16-18)
Stephen Huynh as Chris
Sharon Luk as Tung Ka Cheung’s girlfriend
Lam King Kong as Ho Chi To
Cheung Ying Choi as Chan Kau Sau
Ricky Wong as Mo Ko
“However one of the best female character to have written in recent TVB memory has to be Sze Ka Ka and the credit goes to Linda Chung for giving perhaps her best performance to date and her breakthrough performance for playing against type.”
SPOILERS … SPOILERS … SPOILERS
Taken from D-addicts (http://wiki.d-addicts.com/A_Journey_Called_Life)
Linda Chung plays the role of Sze Ka Ka, a girl who has gone out of control ever since her mother passed away. Lost in a world of drugs, lies, and sex…Ka meets Sing Yat On (Steven Ma), who is deeply moved by her love for her deceased mother. However, due to a series of past events, Ka and her family have gotten into an almost unfixable relationship. As she spends more time with On, she realizes that she’s been going about her life the wrong way. They fall in love with each other, but come across many obstacles due to Ka’s old lifestyle. TVB brings you a story of atonement, sorrow, hope, and redemption.
I don’t know why it took me this long to write this review. It is very strange considering that I love this series and consider it one of the recent best in TVB memory, after having sat through junks and craps dressed up as good series, this series is a fine example of very good acting combined with great chemistry and a killer story. It took me so long that frankly I can’t remember many names (well, thanks to D-Addicts for the list!) and some plots but overall the story remains with me. It is also that sort of series I can never remember the English title even when I kept looking at it. It is not because I don’t like it, but somehow I just can never remember it. I suppose there is a reason why I remember Gem Of Life.
Anyway the official plot is not far off. But before you think this is all about Linda Chung, it isn’t. In a way it centres on Steven Ma’s character. And if you think “Journey of life”? PREACHY! No it isn’t. This is not a preachy sort of series. It tells a story not about lesson in life and an education in whatever. It is however truly a story about atonement, sorrow, hope and redemption as the official plot puts it. But in the end strip everything away this is a story about love. Love of all sort. Love driving us do stupid things. Love making us make sacrifices for the worse of us. Love making us be better, making us want to better ourselves. Love in its pure simplicity. I see this series as a story about love.
Like the plot says, Linda Chung is a good girl gone bad. She comes from a troubled home, blaming her father and her stepmother over her mother’s early death, she is often abused and a few times sexually molested by her stepbrother but her father did nothing. I think she hated her father more than her stepmother because as her father, he failed to protect her. Truly a dysfunctional family, more so when her father is very scared of her stepmother. She comes and goes at the place they all live in and spends most time out of the home, working at her handphone shop which she co-owns with her boyfriend. I think in a statement of how screwed up she is, her boyfriend is a lazy good for nothing. Her best friend, San (Elaine Yiu) is also as screwed up, but still is a nice girl even if lacking in education, opportunities, grace, etc. Put it simply, Linda Chung is your typical screwed up teenager who grew up to be a screwed up adult, but earlier on we know she is really not that bad a person. Her love for her mother for one. She has been looking for her urn for years, and although she tricked Steven into buying a faulty handphone, when she found out Steven who works as a stone carver apprentice (more like someone who makes signboard or nameboard out of stones which includes headstone used for cemetery) and whose master, the happy go lucky Kam Shek (Kent Cheng) who kept the unnamed urn for many years, she was so grateful they became friends. Whilst Steven may also be uneducated, having to work early in life to help support his family as his father, good friend of Kent died young. He has 2 younger sisters, one of whom is Fala who is materialistic but isn’t a bad person and a studious youngest sister. He loved them both very much, but I suspect he loved Fala more as he doted on her, even when knowing her greedy nature. So he is uneducated, sees Kent (who has a son, Raymond who is more educated but as materialistic as Fala) as his father figure and has no asset, no money, nothing much, but Steven is a good man. This is something Linda sees earlier on. He is also boring without much nightlife or friends. He works hard, earns hard, do the best he could in everything, and his one main hobby is running. He wants to run in marathon and Kent has been training him. His pacifist sort of nature is greatly suited for marathons as it is a test of endurance, something Linda was influenced to take up.
Now you may think how these 2 vastly different individuals could ever fall in love but this series shows us convincingly why Linda would fall for the boring Steven and how Steven fell for the bad girl turned good Linda. I love watching them slowly realising their feelings for one another and how Linda felt she wasn’t good enough or Steven thought he may be too old for her (he’s in his 30s I think, she early 20s) but in the end when it came to that one kiss that started their relationship, it was neither cheesy or fake. It was an inspiring moment of 2 individuals who found one another, especially for Linda who for most of her life is surrounded by useless men but here before her is this wonderful good man she knew she can’t let go. So we see them fell in love, married, start a family but with tragic consequences thanks to Fala.
Fala is so materialistic she is willing to be a temperamental rich man’s girlfriend, but her heart is with Raymond. They’re 2 people exactly alike, and Raymond never stopped her. When she fell pregnant with his child, in desperation to continue her privileged life, she aborted her own child but by then the rich man knew and beat her up and if I remember correctly threw her out. At this point Steven has helped her sister through many troubles but this was one trouble he didn’t want to get involved in anymore. He was fed up, very disappointed that she aborted her child for money. The scene where he confronted her in the hospital was emotional and one of the best in the series, as he told her face on “From this day forward I will not interfere in your affairs anymore. You do what you like, the way you like, I am done with you, I am done as your brother” and he walked off, and Fala stricken with sadness at her foolishness. True to his words he stopped bothering about her and out of severe guilt she became an alcoholic. Although in time Steven would have forgiven her, he loved her very much. Another scene that really struck a chord in my heart was Kent scolding Raymond for letting Fala waste herself; “She did what she did, that I can’t blame her because she is young and foolish. But you, Bad Boy (his nickname), you’re older, you should know better! You knew her all your life, you knew she was walking on this dangerous road and you did nothing! Nothing at all!” and even Kent refused to forgive his son and lamented at times “How I wish Onn Boy (his nickname for Steven) is my son but that is my misfortune that I did not have him as my son”. However as a testament to a father’s love for his son, when Raymond owed millions to I think loan sharks or someone thanks to the vengeful rich man who was Fala’s lover (he knew Fala was having an affair with Raymond but kept quiet, intending to make them both suffer which they’re at this point), his parents, old and supposed to have retired after letting Steven takeover the business had to scrap every penny they have to save their son. They even sold off their old apartment and had to move into countryside to save money. Kent felt deep sadness at how his son turn out to be but in the end he is still his son.
Likewise with Fala. At this point Linda is heavily pregnant and is also trying to patch things up between brother and sister as well as sister and family. Steven’s heart was softening, after all that is his sister. I can’t remember the exact storyline but I think Fala was becoming reckless, was very drunk and took into the car and drove on despite Steven screaming at her not to and of all people she crashed into, she crashed into Linda whose child died in the womb and she had to give birth to a stillborn child. It was an extremely difficult scene to watch as she cried and cried with Steven holding on to her and as she pushed the dead little girl out. Fala was full of regrets and when Steven walked out, in one of the most emotional scene, Fala rushed to her brother thinking her brother would as always protect her and forgive her cried “Brother” and if I remember correctly Steven slapped her or maybe he didn’t but he did grab her and chased her off whilst crying “It is your fault! You killed her! You killed her!”. Can’t remember the exact words but kinda close. That is the trouble with writing a review so many months later. Steven could never forgive Fala and Fala ran away. Linda being a strong person recovered and forgave Fala, knowing she was reckless but it was an accident. Fala tried a few times to reach out to Steven, hoping for forgiveness, he rebuffed her. I missed the saddest scene by a few minutes but anyway, when Steven finally went to look for Fala, she was so drunk she drowned or something and as Steven crying hard and holding her she breathed her last breath whilst begging Steven to forgive her. After that Steven was a changed man. He was no longer interested in anything, he lost hope in life, he could not forgive himself for not being able to protect the people he loved and he became sullen. Linda encouraged him to run in marathon but he did it half heartedly until he just stopped and gave up. Suddenly a little girl appeared to give him a drink and he felt recharged and what may have been just an imagination, he thought the little girl he saw looked exactly like the little girl some computer generated stuff said could look like if she were to have both his and Linda’s features. He realised his daughter paid him a visit, and as Linda cried her heart out when Steven did not run alongside her, suddenly she saw him being his old self again and all was happy.
Meanwhile, Raymond was very angry with what happened to Fala and blamed the rich man. He kidnapped him, intending to kill that rich jerk but his father and Steven came in time. All being very emotional, Raymond pushed Kent aside and even in anger used a brick and hit his father’s head. Realising what he had done, he suddenly woke up. Next we know, Kent is ok and visiting his son in prison who promises to be good when he comes out of prison and his parents wait for him with the hope that the future will be better.
Steven bought back Kent’s old apartment as a gift for Kent whilst Linda realised her mother wasn’t an angel herself for reason that she was a gambler and began to see her stepmother in a new light. For all her faults, her stepmother did love her cowardly father very much. In the end all was happy as Linda I think announces she is pregnant again.
There are many heartwarming moments in this series, as well as heart wrenching. I think many parents could very well identify with Kent who laments how he wishes Steven was his son because Steven is such a good boy whilst his own son, Raymond is as he nicknames him, Bad Boy. Whilst I thought at some point Raymond will become a jerk and do everything to destroy Steven, the storyline thankfully never went that way. Yes, Raymond was at some point jealous of Steven but then he himself knew he wasn’t the world’s greatest son. In some ways there is a tacit respect between Raymond and Steven and Steven sees himself as Raymond big brother and so feels responsible for him as well. I love the relationship between Steven and his father figure, Kent. Kent is the happy go lucky sort of person, married to his childhood sweetheart and is a great man who somehow has this almost useless son. Makes you wonder how can that be? Well, in life that is realistic. Like Steven who is a decent guy with a decent mother and a decent youngest sister ending up with a gold digger sister. In a way Steven acknowledged he had a role to play in how his sister turned out as an adult, as he often spoilt her when she was little. Their age gap is very wide so he is like her father figure. In those scene where Kent or Steven expresses their deep disappointment in the people they love, it was never accusing sort of way or preachy but realistic and very good entertainment. I feel for them.
I also love the relationship between Linda and Steven, how it blossomed. The relationship between Steven and Fala, how it ended tragically through no fault of his but it is just the way it is. How Kok Fung became a braver man to stand up for his daughter, Linda at long last instead of being the cowardly bystander.
Every character has a role to play, a story to tell, from Kent to Fala to everybody else.
However one of the best female character to have written in recent TVB memory has to be Sze Ka Ka and the credit goes to Linda Chung for giving perhaps her best performance to date and her breakthrough performance for playing against type. She should have won something for this, like Most Favourite Actress because she was that good. She made Sze Ka Ka into a real character, she gave her an attitude, she gave her a personality. Ka Ka was never quite likeable until she met Onn and from there her character grew stronger. Even during the worst of time that is the birthing scene to after, she makes you believe that Ka Ka is that strong that she can live through that time. Ka Ka has always been a strong girl. But what makes her want to change is the unnecessary death of her best friend, San and she changed after that. She wanted a life, she wanted to live a good life and you may think she settled for Onn, but the truth is she fell for Onn for all the right reason. When she found out she couldn’t give birth as she had abortions in the past, she cried “This is my retribution! I was such a horrible person, I didn’t love myself enough, look how in the end it becomes for me now. I deserve this! I truly deserve this!”. But Onn would hear none of that. He loved her for who she is, that is a good person and he takes her past, present and her future which is why Ka Ka loved him even more. All credit goes to Linda Chung. I did wonder how Linda could portray this classless, uneducated ill mannered troubled girl. Well, she still talks like Linda Chung as in breathy whisper but everything else is a marvel to watch. I have never seen her dress sexier but in here, her short skirts and all were really short and bravo to her for sitting realistically like how she did; legs wide opened! At times I thought be careful Linda, you could expose yourself. She didn’t quite care. She went all out with this performance, giving it all she got and her birthing scene was so realistic, so well done, you will cry watching that scene. I also love how she walks. She doesn’t walk like she normally does, like a lady but notice how she walks, how she talks, it’s like Linda Chung is no longer there but just Sze Ka Ka. Who knew Linda could give such a great performance? Someone else will make it into a screamfest or point everywhere but Linda Chung, even when Ka Ka was at her worst, she gave Ka Ka a certain dignity, which somehow you feel Sze Ka Ka can be redeemed, she is not a bad person. I believed that when I watch Linda’s performance.
It helps when she is paired with someone to create that chemistry. Again I didn’t know she could have such great chemistry with Steven Ma. Steven Ma proved himself worthy in Safe Guards, again in Land of Wealth, again and again in lesser series. I just hope he doesn’t recite poem or talk when he is crying but other than that, Steven Ma is now my most favourite younger actor. He oozes this ordinary man charm, he plays the ordinary bloke to perfection and in Onn, I see a good man that is so believable that you could fall in love with. So he is boring. So his favourite past time is jogging but in this boring man lies a responsible man who sees the good in people. He saw that in Ka Ka. Despite what Sum (Fala) or Bad Boy did again and again, he sees the good in them in the end. No wonder his master Shek loved him like his own son, even more than his own son sometimes. When he cries with disappointment, you will feel it too. Every emotional high or low, you will feel it too. All kudos to Steven Ma. If this was filmed many years before, Wong Hei would have nailed this role. But Wong Hei these days, I just can’t pinpoint what is wrong with him but he is still one of my favourite actors. I just love the chemistry between Linda and Steven and when they kissed, I confess, I feel so much happier for their characters than I did for Raymond Lam and Linda in whatever series they kissed. Steven Ma is turning into a dependable leading actor.
Kent Cheng is a complete and utter surprise. I never knew he could be so lively, so bouncy, so cute! His scenes with his secret admirer, Halina Tam was very very funny but his best scenes are always with Steven Ma and their touching close relationship. It feels like father and son the way Shek would have wished it but Onn wasn’t his son that he knew. One scene he sadly said “I think of myself as a good man, I tried to teach my son good values, but why did he turn out to be so rotten? What haven’t I done enough? Where did I go wrong?” A very lively colourful performance.
Fala Chan must be mentioned. I think this is the 2nd time she played Steven’s sister and again a similar role, someone materialistic but not as vindictive as her previous character in the series about ballroom dancing. Anyway, never mind her accent (how on earth a sister could have such a different accent than her family?!) or that she would later give a breakthrough performance in Moonlight Resonance. In here her character is consistent in the sense materialistic till almost the end until guilt consumed her. I just couldn’t believe how her character ended up in the series though. Frankly when I watched it was shocked, I am still shocked but I suppose it is an appropriate end. Also a brave performance, with some intimate scenes with Raymond in the bathtub.
As for everybody else, each was effective in their given role. Frankly I can’t remember much. Oh yes, Kok Fung. Makes me want to punch him, his character was that useless in here.
Many memorable scenes which I shall not list. I find this series evenly paced, well written, well acted and has an uplifting ending. However one scene I felt was not right was Steven seeing his little girl if she had lived to that age. I thought in his grief and sadness over what happened to Sum, and his need for redemption and forgiveness (he did say very sadly “I have failed as a brother. I have failed terribly. I have failed” when my family and I was screaming “No! No! Onn Boy! You did not fail! They failed you!!”) he should have seen Sum instead of his daughter. Sum for me was his path to forgiving himself and it should have been Sum giving him that bottled water and smile sweetly at him.
But save for that tiny but pivotal scene, everything else was great! Where could you find a series where the actors share great chemistry together, see Linda Chung not be Linda Chung, Steven Ma at one of his best, some very touching moments and some all out cry out your heart moments?
This series. Indeed, A Journey Called Life.
This series will be showing on TV soon (17.03.2010) and safe to say, this must be your TOP PRIORITY to watch. A must watch! Forget about Gem Of Life and 3 sisters crying how much they care about one another. If there is a series that shows you love, how to love, how to be loved, how to find love, how to give love, how to keep love … this series is it. Fans of Linda would be amazed, new fans would appreciate Linda’s performance, Steven Ma is definitely a draw to watch, Kent Cheng will surprise you but most of all, the story will at some point move you to tears as it shall make you laugh earlier on.
A MUST WATCH.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.