Review: A Journey Called Life (TVB 2008)

By on January 16, 2012 in NEWS, REVIEWS

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A Journey Called Life < 金石良缘>

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

Official Plot

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.

My Comments

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.

Verdict

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.

26 comments to Review: A Journey Called Life (TVB 2008)

  1. miss unknown says:

    I completely agree that this is a must watch! I was skeptical when I saw the series poster, but gave it a try after reading wiki saying that it was her breakthrough performance…and I have to say, it was worth it! It was one of the series that I actually sit through to watch the whole thing!

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  2. Magic says:

    It was so sad when Linda was giving birth after Fala crashed her. :'(
    It was one of the most memorable scenes imo.

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  3. KangNam says:

    I have to say when there is a Steven and Linda show i tend to like it (even better with Kent) the series they are in are not THE best but its always a feel good series (until it gets sad then it becomes a sad series lol) but its watchable and enjoyable and good to pass time with i wanna see more Linda-Steven series in the future (as long as Linda dont cry in every ep like she did in MR i like her lol)

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  4. claimine says:

    Wow! What a coincidence to see this piece of lengthy AJCL review. Just this afternoon read Producer Leung Choi Yuen’s comment on AJCL posted on weibo.

    Seems AJCL is also a favorite series for both its producer, Leung Choi Yuen, and scriptwriter, 賈偉南.

    Uncle Choi’s comment:
    Q:(to Uncle Choi) AJCL is also a low budget series but both its review and ratings are extremely good.

    Choi: The strength of AJCL’s script is very strong, the subject matter to communicate is also especially broad; it’s about problems faced in life; a very serious issue. Initially, I was filled with trepidation because I felt this would be a very dark story. Worried viewers while having dinner might be turned off by all this funeral stuff. So I communicated to the scriptwriter, 賈偉南, that he must make this series ‘sunshine’. Coincidentally at that very moment, we saw this wall painting inscribed with this writing: “Today though stormy, tomorrow will see sunshine.” (今朝雖風雨明日見陽光) So, we immediately found the answer. (smile) I encouraged Mr.Gu to incorporate this maxim into the story; it’s zen like. So we came up with the marathon as an allegory. Even though we are writing a tombstone story, about confronting live and death separation. But life still goes on, life must go forward, and to give everybody a hope.

    ****************
    Gu Wai Nam’s comment on how AJCL came into being.
    Q: The themes for TVB series are usually directives from above, if your assignment was on some theme that you are not interested in, how do you handle it?

    Mr.Gu: Every year we have a special conference. Every script editor will propose two ‘ideas’. Everybody will then discuss which has a higher possibility of being produced. And afterwards report to the higher up. It is not always that the person who came up with the original idea would be the one to write it, though it might be so now can’t remember if the original idea is mine or not.

    And the rest is parachuted from above telling you to do it. Even though it (subject) is not my request but I can make it into something I like. After all, it is just a topic; it has no detailed story or mission. So I can take the topic and create it into some characters or things I like. Like the series: A Journey Called Life. At that time Zhan jie (Catherine Tsang) Uncle Choi (Leung Choi Yuen) were brainstorming on what series to produce. Later, Zhang Jie looked up and saw a rock. And so she suggested we should use engraving tombstone as a topic. When Uncle Choi and I heard that we were both shocked. (smile) because didn’t know how to write a story around a tombstone. So we just took the suggested topic and slept on it. At first I wanted to make AJCL a comedy and moreover, Uncle Choi was worried that tombstone, such a heavy topic, may make story background too somber, so we both thought to make it a comedy but Zhan jie disagreed and vetoed that idea. After discussing we decided to center the story on real life people and make it a family oriented drama, a story totally without embellishment. During the creative process, we did not even think of the issue as to whether the story would attract the audience or not, so it was done rather relaxingly. And I was very happy writing this script because I did not have to especially write to please the audience. There were not much constraints put on it. And I myself like this series very much. Of course, not completely satisfied because there is still some wrinkles in it. Initially there was this one scene that was created for the lead but on second thoughts, worried the lead could not comfortably perform it so changed that scene onto another character, but in the end still felt that this scene handled by the lead would be much more effective, and so all this changing around caused some abruptness in between scenes. (tn: the stillbirth scene)

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    • jayne replied:

      Claimine:
      “Today though stormy, tomorrow will see sunshine.” (今朝雖風雨明日見陽光)

      Thank you for sharing such interesting background details regarding “A Journey Called Life.” I always find the inspiration and evolving conception behind an artistic production to be very interesting. Indeed the maxim is quite uplifting.

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  5. claimine says:

    To outsiders, Ah Onn maybe boring as without much outside interests but with people he is comfortable with, like Fat Boss and later with Kaka, he is quite witty and playful.

    Transferring old posts:
    After they became friends, despite their different personalities, Ah On and Gaga get along famously.

    Ah On brings stability to Gaga whose life has been anything but stable, whereas, Gaga brings color and excitement to Ah On’s life, which until now was quite staid and filled with responsibility.
    And Fat Boss is their father figure, more friend than boss.

    I like this trio’s chemistry. In fact, the chemistry of the cast is pretty good. Linda still overacted in the beginning but not too bad, overall. And Elaine was excellent as the pill popping, bimbo friend — she is just a train wreck waiting to happen right in front of your face…sad to watch…what a waste. Elaine’s Hana is definitely portrayed as a foil to Linda’s Gaga. One can’t help but root for Gaga to choose the right path in life, with the help of good people like Fat Boss and Ah On.

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  6. Allen says:

    Linda & Steven made this series. And yes I agree this is Linda’s best performance thus far. Top 3 with Sheung Joy Sum & Ms Cool

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  7. claimine says:

    Transferred old post:

    So, what’s your favorite scene?
    Steven: There’s this one scene that I’m really happy with. It’s with Mali jie, my mom. After our marriage, Linda conceived our baby, when previously she is thought to be barren. But heaven blessed us with a baby. But because my sister, Fala…she truly loves her brother, me. And she wanted me to get into high society. One day, she got drunk and drove the car into Linda and caused her to lose the baby. Thereafter, I disowned this sister of mine. There I was up on the patio by myself filled with despair; my mom came to talk with me….in the scene we couldn’t control our tears. Truly couldn’t contain them at all…running noses and all.

    C: Real tears?
    S: Real. The viewers will see that at that time I simply could not control my expressions at all. The sobs, the twitches…. I was sobbing so hard, I could hardly say my lines. That scene was in one take. The producer and director.. I was very happy.. they expressed their thanks to me. That to me was a huge honor –that ‘thank you’ expressed by both the producer and director, thanking us both for performing such a marvelous scene. Their thanks to me were an immense reward.

    C: And you stopped crying immediately?
    S: No. Still wept. Couldn’t stop at all. .

    C: The way you told the story, the series is not light romance as I had first thought.

    Steven: No. Actually, it’s a real Life tale..very realistic, very Hong Kong people, like those of us who grew up in public housing. People will feel the familiarity. Because the drama itself will not involve high society. Nor will it depict something unreasonable like how come all the stuff were so expensive?

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  8. claimine says:

    Funn: Did you know Steven write the themesong lyrics?

    If interested to on my thoughts completed with screencaps on AJCL goto: http://stevenma-fanblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Series%3A%20AJCL

    Funn: To me, AJCL centers on Kaka,not Ah Onn.

    Posted 28 April 2008
    Imo, Ah On is a tricky, as opposed to difficult, character to portray; reason being that Ah On is such a bland and mild character, and a goody-2 shoes at that, plus there’s not much gripping drama in his story to make him stand out. Ah On is just like a glass of milk, nutritious and satisfying but not intoxicating like wine. This kind of stock character is very easily overshadowed by the more colorful characters like Gaga or more quirky personalities like Fat Boss. The most attention grabbing characters, of course, are the villains like Susanna Kwan’s character in HOG who can arouse viewers’ intense emotions.

    As such, Steven had his job cut out for him to not bore his audience with yet another portrayal of a good man genre. In addition, Steven also had the challenge on how to make a perfect character believable when in fact none can be found in real life. Like Fat Boss’ unreserved grading of Ah On on perfection: 100% as son, 100% as husband, & 100% as brother. It brings to mind the good son in The Prodigal Son parable in the bible whose goodness was so taken for granted, that he was easily overlooked, if not slighted. Just like those copious remarks on Steven’s performance, “Steven? He’s good as usual.” And left it at that. “Good as usual”, if a bit terse bordering on apathy, I guess, is at least a kind of recognition, if not praise for his high acting standard. For me, Steven’s performance never disappoints but in AJCL’s last 2 episodes he was brilliant because finally he was given the chance to fledge full out his acting talent.

    Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed every moment of his screen time especially his heart wrenching scenes in the last few episodes. Thank goodness for a happy ending.

    If Ah On is considered dull meaning having an unassuming and layback personality with an even temperament, then yea, Ah On is that. Fat Boss even calls him a block of wood. His family & friends including himself never thought that a volatile, wild girl like Gaga would ever be interested in a ‘dull’ person like him. But if one gets to know him better, like Gaga did, one would find him to be a warm and spontaneous person, witty and quick with words; for instance, “You’re so stupid!” lol! And his repartees with Fat Boss absolutely delighted me. Also, usually unassuming, Ah On can be very assertive, even aggressive to those who threatened his loved ones. I can go on and on about Ah On’s virtues and strengths but I think you get my gist. But yeah,overall, Ah On is indeed a bland character, kept back by the script and screen time. Which is why I was so glad for the last 2 episodes where Steven could finally showcase his acting skill. Although Steven did well in his performance, as usual, and brilliantly so in the last 2 episodes, I feel that his acting talent was not fully expended in the series. What a waste of a fine talent!

    Yunsias: The thing about Ah On is that he is not dull at all. I loved all his conversations with Fat Boss which shows his ability to use wit and he can be mischievous when he wants to, unlike the really dull “block of wood” Kaka’s third brother played by Stephen Wong.

    What impresses me most about Ah On is his non-judgmental attitude. Guess that’s one reason why Gaga feels at ease with him to falling for him later because he accepts her just as she is; like he accepts his youngest sister’s pregnancy and Vicky’s immorality. (Although Vicky’s abortion crosses his moral threshold) He doesn’t condone their behaviors and mistakes, but he loves them no matter and will, within his efforts, help to solve their problems. A good man, all around.

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    • claimine replied:

      Oophs!Was going to delete Yunsias’ comment before posting the above comment. Sorry!

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  9. Moo says:

    This is still my favorite Linda series and role to date. The chemistry between the entire cast, the story, the acting … everything about this series was pretty much flawless …

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  10. claimine says:

    The Birthing Scene
    Steven has always impressed me with his crying performances. I thought his crying performance in this epi birthing scene was superb as was Linda’s. To better appreciate Ah On’s emotions here, the kind of person Ah On is must be taken into consideration.

    Background on the shaping of Ah On’s personality. Ah On faces personal pain and loss like the person he is:

    — A first born who is not only the oldest son but also the only male in a family of females.

    —Obviously, because of the incidence of his birth order and gender, much is expected of him. However, the expectation of him is even greater than most, when at the tender age of 16, his father died an untimely death, at which time, he duly became the man of his family.

    His early burden has hastened his maturity, over the years, he has learned that tears are not for him. When did Ah On ever cry in the whole series before this? Not even when he was forced to break up with Gaga. His heart might break but his tears would not flow, not even a drop until now.

    There’s a Chinese saying that goes like this: A man’s tears are not easily shed, not until his heart breaks will they flow.

    ~~~Epi 19 birth scene
    In the scene, Ah On’s controlled and contained emotions belied his heartbreak, his helplessness and fear.

    Ah On’s heart is breaking but even then he will not allow his tears to flow unlike Gaga’s uncontrollable gushing of tears and wailing because of who he is; and he is, above all, a protector of his woman folks and a tower of strength to them. Faced with his wife’s anguish and pain, he readily slips into that mode duly projecting a brave face and front, as usual putting a loved one’s needs above his.

    And so Ah On comforts Gaga with a smile… everything will be fine, you’ll see. Hoi Yin is only sleeping, so of course, she isn’t kicking you now. But the fear in his unsteady eyes belied his outward calm and comforting words.

    But heaven disposes; it is not to be…the baby has no heartbeats, so says the doctor. Her ominous pronouncement takes a sec to sink in…

    Gaga freaks out. Ah On instinctively tightens his cradling hold on his wife, and plants a consoling kiss on her head before retorting to the messenger of bad news:

    “No heart beats, what does it mean; no heart beats?” Ah On desperately holds on to reason. He is ever mindful of his wife’s anguish and fear, his own he will attend to later, much later; but for right now, his wife needs him and he must be there for her. He must control his emotions, he must be the man of strength.

    The baby is dead

    Upon hearing this, Gaga collapses and let out a heartrending wail of agony. Her loss is absolute; her mind is oblivious; she can only feel her own despair, nobody else. She sobs loudly and uncontrollably. Whereas Ah On is struck dumb and struck numb. His mind is in total denial. He strikes out in anger but sounded like a plea:

    What do you mean? You said the baby was fine just now.

    But there’s no refuting the reality. He could only cradle her in his arms, her keening piercing and devastating him. But his eyes remain dry. And there they hold each other, intertwined by grief and Gaga’s labor pains. He cradles her head tenderly, and plants kisses on her head…heartbroken.

    In Ah On’s mind, he must be strong, he must protect, he must comfort, he must not cry for he can handle anything, anything except make things right again. And so he continues to cradle her, partly to comfort her and partly to seek comfort himself. He is one with her; he feels her pains. She screams out loud her grief and pain; he absorbs hers and adds them to his.

    For at that very moment, he is helpless.. he is a protector who can’t protect.. not his wife, not his stillborn daughter. He, as a tower of strength, is crumbling… don’t know when his eyes glistened with tears; tears that trickle soundlessly down his face. None of those gushing torrents of tears or loud sobbing of anguish….his tears, so long banished over the years, therefore foreign, could only trickle drop by drop…relentlessly down his face.

    He swipes his tears from his face upon stepping out into the waiting room, but disobediently, the tears sneak up on him when he lashes out at Vicky in a controlled, low voice. His daughter, whom they have named Hoi Yin, is dead. He finally erupts in rage, when spent, he collapses in despair. Now away from his wife, his agony comes in cresting waves drowning him completely…he sinks to his knees and huddles his upraised knees. His total devastation is complete. Where is God?

    note: Steven’s performance was so much more powerful and believable (based on Ah On’s stoic personality) with these restrained emotional reactions. Bravo!

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  11. evieta says:

    this is one of the best series i had watch, it is amazing teaching a lesson while giving you the romantic and love story

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  12. claimine says:

    @Funn: Love your ‘love’ motif in this series. 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. In short, how love conquers all.

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  13. Funn Lim says:

    claimine,

    Thanks for all the information! I didn’t know Steven wrote the lyrics. Come to think of it I can’t remember the themesong. I actually wrote this review in 2010, my memory is really bad these days. I do think Steven gave a wonderful performance. He may not be the best actor but he has that Felix Wong quality; that everyday man quality that makes you believe in every character he played. There’s an innate honesty in his performance that makes you believe in him. This is not a quality every actor has and Steven is effortless in this.

    I also agree the birthing scene was very sad and so very realistic. I have never seen so much sweat and tears and I still remember Linda crying as she pushed and cried and pushed. I also like how strong her character is, she just stood back up and move on. This series is very memorable because it was very well written and very well acted. I basically took notice of Linda after this series and I have liked her since but in River of Wine I sorta became her fan. Yes she cries terribly but there is a heart wrenching-ness with her tears, like the fellow actor just slapped her a thousand times. She cries realistically and isn’t annoying, it isn’t painful to watch not did I cringe. She doesn’t cry beautifully like Charmaine nor loudly like Tavia but rather… well.. realistically.

    This is one of my firm favourite but I love Steven after Safe Guards. For me after that he can do no wrong even if I admit, he is really not a really great actor but his acting is to me good enough because his charisma carries him. And he is a bona fide leading actor.

    MY favourite series for Tavia is Vigilante Force, she was so fresh then but her favourite performance of mine is in I think called Land Of Wealth again with Steven. Steven manages to bring out the best in his female co-star (except wooden niki) and I can still remember they were like this perfect couple. Tavia was graceful, beautiful elegant as was Steven’s gentlemanly scholarly type and they were this great match and I was like wow what a couple. I don’t mind Tavia when Steven is next to her. Fala forever the sister of Steven in my mind, but would love to see Fala, Tavia and Linda all going after steven sort of series. This is like a gathering of his past co-stars.

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    • Judy replied:

      Agree that b/c of this series, Fala will always be Steven’s sister, which is one of the reasons why I didn’t like them as a couple in ‘links to temptation.’

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    • claimine replied:

      @Funn,

      song name: “A little story”

      A Little Story
      The road ahead sheds no light, only smoke.
      Have learned to seek a thread of vision through drunkenness.
      Looking back at life’s lows, their bitterness can be viewed as a remembrance of life’s marks.
      Regardless, having lived has significance. If outcome deviates, there is always tomorrow.

      When hurt is deep, tears can’t flow
      And breathing becomes erratic; ineffable when face to face.
      When eyes turn red, crying is not a shame
      Male or female, who does not have grievances.

      Even if the outcome is known, even if one is sacrificed, will do so willingly.
      The road ahead maybe arduous, yet unafraid of faltering because you’re by my side.
      Let go of yesterday’s doubts; when faced with adversity, hold on tight to your course
      No regrets; this life is not long, but neither did it feel short.
      Ah..embracing each other, eye to eye.
      Will you remember
      My life on earth
      Waiting for this little story

      I first saw Linda in VOH2 and to not mince words, she was terrible. Her publicly acclaimed performance in HOG did not change my mind on her acting ability. But, she sure did with her performance in AJCL. Both she and Elaine did.

      Initially, I had reservations about AJCL being a good series mainly because of its female cast, and Kent being still an unknown actor to me. But now I love this series, a true keeper for my TVB series collection.

      Its very title, A Journey called Life, sounds ponderous if not a little grandstanding, almost religious-like – a title more appropriate for a bible study group or a self-awareness group discussion than for tv entertainment. Its Chinese title is even worse, so cliché, so uninspired.

      AJCL indeed constitutes the theme of this series, but as a title it is far too broad and way too impersonal to reflect its very touching and intimate story. Conversely, the theme song, A Little Story, brilliantly captured the heart of the story; a story that is indeed little in the scheme of things but monumental to the cast of characters involved. Surprisingly, the series turns out to be both entertaining and thought provoking; a very rare combination in a low-budget tv series. Rarer still are its well-written script, its attention to character development and interactions, and last but not least, its marvelous cast.

      Understand that first and foremost, AJCL was written to entertain, but if at the same time, the audience got more out of it than entertainment, then so much the better. What I like most about this series is how the series incorporated morality, society ills, and tragedy into a heartwarming and delightful series without resorting to pompous moralization.

      Unlike most TV series which are plot driven, AJCL is character driven. The main characters are meticulously written with their own distinctive personalities & idiosyncrasies, ambitions & desires, morals and values. Even the two Kam Sek employees’ characterization was well sketched out. Why did the death scenes of the characters so heart wrenching to watch? Because the characters touched us, the audience. And when an audience is touched by the characters, the series becomes memorable, as AJCL is to me.

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  14. Judy says:

    I completely agree. I absolutely loved this series — from beginning, middle, to end… which is quite rare for me, especially w/ TVB series.

    I think often times, TVB series ends abruptly w/ little time to tie up relationships, conflicts, etc. But not this series, it pretty much ties up everything and left me satisfied!

    This series is heartwarming and i found myself crying and laughing along w/ the characters. I like to watch this series when I’m feeling down about life… reminds me that life is a long road in which persistence and dedication will get you places… even when there are lots of bumps, banana peels, and cracks!

    If you liked this series, I would recommend love bond, my other favorite series 🙂

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  15. exoidus says:

    This series is so good that i have rewatched it several times already, LOL

    Love the story, cast and the marathon theme as well! Linda’s crying scene here was outstanding and birthscene simply realistic.

    Linda should’ve been awarded for her performace.

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    • Darrenll replied:

      Me too. I have watched this countless times not just because I am a staunch Steven Ma fan but also the chemistry between Kent and Steven is so strong and solid that it makes one believe the strong friendship between them. I have read that after this series, both of them have become good friends !

      Another point is that after this drama, I also began to like Linda as an actress. I used to dislike her when she appeared in dramas with Raymond Lam but this partnership with Steven simply blew me over !

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      • claimine replied:

        Darrenll: Kent and Steven’s relationship is still going strong. Kent celebrated Steven’s 40th birthday with him last October. IIrc, someone revealed in an Eileen interview that if you couldn’t find Steven then look for Kent because finding Kent would find Steven too and vice verse because they were constantly in each other’s company (shooting AJCL & AWT)

        2009-7-9
        In a one-on-one relationship, to get along with each other there need to be a bit of fate involved. Kent Cheng and Steven Ma though both possessing indomitable personalities connect like father and son.

        One late night, I happened upon Kent goh in the TVBcity cafeteria. Turns out that he would be flying out to Hengdian the next day to shoot a series. However, before setting out, he still made this one special trip to TVBcity to visit Steven Ma who was shooting Ghost Writer then. Does Kent gor love Ma Zai this dearly?

        “You know me; black is black, white is white, no middle ground. I cherish Ma Zai because he is willing to endure, also very hardworking, willing to analyze meticulously each and every one of his characters. In an entertainment field, what is most important to have is a fire inside. He has it. And this fire is burning pretty big. All this child lacks is a bit of luck, and when luck comes, the achievement will be extraordinary, for sure. I once said this to some tvb top brass: to have Ma Zai this kind of artiste is extremely rare. TVB must treasure him,” responded Kent goh, earnestly.

        Kent gor expressed: “The success or failure of a series is everybody’s responsibility; not just if I did my part then that’s it. What’s rare about Ma Zai is that he is willing to scrutinize every scene, to scrutinize every line; he is even concerned over the scene of the person playing opposite him; even down to the nitty-gritty details. What good about him is that he has a heart that cares about the whole, big picture.”

        Kent gor professed that so long a person is worth respecting, even if he is a junior, he will duly respect him; and Ma Zai is one such person.
        ……..

        Ma Zai and Kent gor shared an instant mutual affinity. Although they have not known each other for long, they have already become bosom friends. Ma Zai has openly acknowledged that he is very lucky to have met Kent gor, this mentor.
        …..
        A relation that transcends age as well as transcends status is rare. Kent gor and Ma are the best example that true friendship can and does exist in the entertainment world.

        2010 Kent Cheng opines: “..In my lifetime, I seldom admire other people but he (Steven) is one of them that I admire very much. When at work, he has a serious attitude, very meticulous and assiduous at analyzing every character. Nowadays, not everybody would do that. This is what is called professionalism… His acting has substance and real strength.”
        ************
        2008 Steven’s biggest reap from filming “Journey” was getting acquainted with Kent. “On the first day of work, Kent told me that he had studied my previous performance. His knowledge on me was astounding, given that he is a veteran. He told me since he knew he was going to collaborate with me, he should get to know me beforehand. He also told me to treat him as a new colleague since he was away from TVB for so long. I have learned much from Kent. He is my teacher, both in the series and out.”

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  16. samantha says:

    This is the best series for Linda. She should be nominated and i guess win best actress for this role. Her crying scene is so real.I dont know how many times i watch this series.

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  17. Amy says:

    This is an old series but nevertheless, i am a huge fan of Steven Ma =) hope to see more of him especially in period dramas.

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  18. Lily says:

    I think this is Linda’s best performance to date, and I really do like this drama a lot. It is hard to rewatch, with all the sad moments, but when I have time I might even rewatch it.

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  19. Bridget says:

    This one remains one of my favourite TVB series of all time, and made me a solid fan of Linda. Definitely her best performance to date.

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  20. smurf120 says:

    I agree. AJCL has been highlight of Linda Chung’s career for me – then she seemed to revert back to the happy cute needs protection characters (its like watching Hello Kitty crying) she should be growing out of.

    Of all the shows she has been in, I can still vividly remember the stillbirth scene – absolute devastation.

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