River of Wine <九江十二坊>
Producer: Wong Wai Sing
Genre: Ancient Series
Number of episodes: 25
Cast of Characters
Yu Tze Ming as Grandfather
Nancy Sit as Leung Wai Lan
Bowie Lam as Leung Ching Yiu
Sunny Chan as Leung Ching Hong
Casper Chan as Leung Sau Man
Cheung Han Mo as Kwok Fung
Cilla Kung as Leung Sau Yin
Alex Lam as Chu Ah-ngau
Suet Nei as Sung Chi Kam
Kwok Fung as Sung Chi To
Chan Wing Kei as Sung Chi Man
Elena Kong as Sung Ting Ka Pik
Pierre Ngo as Sung Chi Chun
Linda Chung as Sung Chi Ching
Judy Tsang as Lau Yee Mui
Lau Kong as Yuk Fong’s Father
Sire Ma as Tsang Yuk Fong
Tsui Wing as Wine mill owner
Evergreen Mak as Government Official
“It is a testament to how well it (this series) was doing if a viewer grumbles that it should have been longer rather than shorter.”
SPOILERS … SPOILERS … SPOILERS
A very traditional sturdy title that makes no sense except it is cool, that is “Gau Gwong Sap Yee Fong.” I actually thought Sap Yat Jau until I check the title again. I suppose it means the Gau Gwong’s 12 shops or something like that. I actually tried google and it says “Jiujiang twelve Square.” Ha ha ha ha ha. Wait! Maybe it is true.
River of Wine, the wine being the main business portrayed in this series. River because I suppose being poetic.
By Tai Chi the band and what a wonderful song! For once, properly sung, no heavy breathing and a song that is actually a good song! I am just so happy Bowie didn’t sing the theme song! THANK YOU TVB!
What’s It About?
Everyone’s saying this is Country Spirit. I am saying this is Golden Faith and a dash of Plain Love II. Don’t be fooled by the wine thing, the story essentially is very very similar with Golden Faith, a man torn between love for his brother and his duty for his adopted family. And if you’ve seen Golden Faith, you will know the storyline basically. Between the 2, I find Golden Faith a better series because it was better developed.
No. of Episodes
Amazingly, 25 episodes. So short! Should have been 27 episodes or 28 episodes.
Thanks to Wikipedia:
“The story takes place towards the end of Qing Dynasty, revolving around the Sung and Leung family. Madam Leung (Nancy Sit) is the owner of a small business with eldest son Leung Ching-yiu (Bowie Lam), second son Leung Ching-hong (Sunny Chan), third daughter Leung Sau-man (Casper Chan) and youngest daughter Leung Sau-yin (Cilla Lok). Yiu originally was a worker at the Jiujiang brewery but due to a natural disaster, rewrote the lives of the Leung and Sung family.
“Sung family’s daughter, Sung Chi-ching (Linda Chung), the third mistress Ting Kar-pik (Elena Kong) and eldest son Sung Chi-tsun (Pierre Ngo) were separated. The Sung family decided to adopt Yiu as their son and looked after the business. Hong thought Yiu became the Sung family’s son for the sake of wealth.
“Just when business for the Jiujiang wine brewery were going well, Sung family’s long lost son returns and wants to claim back ownership of the business. This results in a major feud between the Leung and the Sungs.
“Finally, when Yiu tied the marriage between Ching and Hong, he was ready to return ownership back to the Sungs. Sadly, his best friend Tsang Yuk-fong (Sire Ma)’s father Magistrate Tsang (Lau Kong) causes downfall to the family. The Sung family business is stolen, luckily Hong helps the family rebuild their business. The Sung and Leungs calm their feud.”
Well, not quite true. I wrote a half summary here at http://www.point2e.com/2011/09/river-of-wine-summarised-sort-of.html. If you think this is rebuilding business sort of series, it is not accurate since the rebuilding is just a few minutes scene.
So Funn, WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
Ching Yiu is torn between his own real family’s interest and that of his promise to his dead adopted father. His dead adopted father must have been a smashingly great guy to have someone so loyal, to the point he would walk over his own family to safeguard his adopted family. He genuinely cares about Chi Chun, his adopted brother, to the point his real brother would ask “What about me? Don’t you care about me?”.
Chi Chun is torn between his own inner demons and that his love for his family, in the form of his sister, Chi Ching. He is a good guy, but years of hardship made him into a very suspiscious man. He doesn’t like the idea that after wasting so many years away from the family, he had to come home and be second best to a total stranger. At first it was eagerness to prove that he can make it on his own, but later on it was jealousy, when everyone, from sister, to aunt to girlfriend to everyone saying how Ching Yiu is number 1 and he is number 2. Imagine he would have been the only son of Sung family, now he has to be the 2nd son of the Sung family.
Ka Pik, the 3rd mom is torn between her love for Ching Yiu and her reputation as the widow of the Sung family. In a way such a relationship is doomed, luckily for her, this is towards the end of Qing dynasty. In the same way Ching Yiu is also torn between his love for Ka Pik and his own reputation as the eldest son of Sung family. It is considered incestuous to even think about loving your 3rd mom. In a way this is as forbidden a love as any story can be.
Chi Ching the sister is also sometimes torn between her love for her eldest brother and that of her 2nd brother, as well as her trust in Ching Yiu and her disbelief he could have fallen for 3rd mom, so a bit of prejudice is in issue here. She is also torn between her own disability and her need to find love and be loved.
Ching Hong is torn between his loyalty to his brother and his hatred for Chi Chun and Sung family.
Madam Leong herself is torn between her love for her eldest son and the fact that he is no longer her son; quite a struggle actually.
Even the villain, Official Tsang has to not struggle but balance between him being the bad guy in front of everyone and wanting to reconcile with his daughter, Yuk Fong whom he loved dearly.
So everyone struggles. So this series is about struggles between 2 sides of everything. There isn’t always a perfect solution though.
When I first saw the many previews and trailers for this series, I was very excited; because I thought this will be Bowie’s last TVB series, which it isn’t. I find the story intriguing and after many years of watching a series 1 year later, finally I get to watch a current one. And I read with disappointment that the ratings are low for this series. I blame it on very little publicity, not much chat online about this series and the impatience of viewers towards a slowly developing storyline.
Make no mistake; this series is snail pace when it comes to development of the storyline. It takes about 11 episodes for the series to reach the beginning of an intrigue and then things were going faster and faster until quite suddenly, when you thought it is reaching climax, that there should be more intrigue, it bloody ended at episode 25. It felt so sudden; the story incomplete even if the ending is complete, but somehow the flow seems shortened unreasonably and even the supposedly climatic scene of drowning of 2 major characters seem to be like it was there for the sake of a bit of suspense and drama. The ending, was amateurish. It felt too easy; too simple and in some ways just didn’t give this series the justice it deserves. Even the main villain’s change of heart or the death of the 2nd villain seems rather rushed. It felt too simplistic, as if the writer just didn’t have any budget to go on anymore and so had to end it at 25 episodes. If the series moved a bit faster in the 1st 11 episodes, yes 25 episodes is more than enough but since things were slowly building up, and the series reached sort of its zenith in about 23rd or 24th episode, 25 episodes seem a wrongly miscalculated move to end the series. I felt shortchanged and a huge sense of anti climax.
Some may argue there isn’t much to watch in this series. In a way the criticisms are true. The story is familiar, it has been done before. Fans looked at the costume and quickly said this is Country Spirit, the end. No. This is Golden Faith, but with more added elements even if uncooked sort of elements. So the story has been done before, the settings is similar, everything is seen and done before but what is different about this series from the recent rest of the series is this; it takes its time to develop the character for the dozen episodes. It doesn’t have a lot of flashback, and it may seem confusing at first but once you get the hang of it, you see the connections between the characters, what drives them, their struggles, their personalities.
I like the fact Pierre’s character, Chi Chun is very very slowly developed and you will take your time and you will hate him. But his sudden change of heart seems a bit abrupt eventhough it is understandable; no matter what sort of a villain he is, he genuinely loves his sister, Chi Ching. Chi Ching in turn became very angry with the way Chi Chun become but she in turn is ready to forgive Chi Chun if he becomes a good man again. One very good scene has Chi Chun lying drunk, angry at everyone for not appreciating him, that including his sister for marrying Ching Hong whom he hated, and when Ching Yiu suggested giving the restaurant that 3rd mom was running to Chi Ching, he refused, saying it will in the end end up with that outsider Ching Hong and his unborn son but Ching Yiu merely said “Is she not your sister? Do you know consider Chi Ching an outsider now? Is she no longer your family just because she married Ching Hong? If you love your sister, give her the restaurant. Give her something in her name, to help her out” which he did. There is strangeness in Chi Chun; he hates Ching Yiu and yet he listens. Another very good scene has the aunt crying at Chi Chun and saying “Tell me, ever since you return home, what have you done right? Everything you have done, can you honestly tell me you have done right? Tell me.. turn back Chi Chun, before it is too late, before everyone leaves you!”. In fact that was one of the best scene. Another good one also involves the aunt crying “We used to have everyone here, your brother, your sister, your 3rd mom, now one by one they have left, one by one, why is this happening? Why?”. Because Chi Chun drove them away, that’s why. There are many others, some makes you want to kick him (cutting 3rd mom’s hair, bullying her and venting his anger at her) and yet forgive him (when he volunteered to take Ching Yiu’s place for the execution – I shall let you watch that scene for yourself). Why does Chi Chun become that way? In part he felt he has lost 2 decades and so needed to rush to gain back what he has lost. He sees Ching Yiu as an obstacle, a stranger who suddenly became his brother and now refuses to back off from the business and let him take control. After a while it was jealousy. Everyone kept telling him how great and gentlemanly Ching Yiu is, and so he wanted to prove Ching Yiu is greedy and a fake that he did many things, much to his own detriment. He was also led astray by Official Tsang who had his own interest to protect but in the end Chi Chun himself was to be blamed.
At this point I must emphasize the script itself is sometimes brilliant. Ching Hong scolding Ching Yiu was a good scene. Everyone by now hates Chi Chun, and yet many are reluctant to blame Chi Chun solely but Ching Hong made it very clear when he shouted “The worst of the lot is you!” and he pointed at Ching Yiu, who was shocked. “Why Sung Chi Chun dared to do so many bad deeds you ask? It is because of you! You always keep telling us that he is a good person, he will change, wait for him to be better person, but the truth is he is rotten to the core! And you made him into that rotten person he is! You let his mistakes go unnoticed, you made excuses for him, you forgive him, you never ever chastise him, no matter what he does, you always clean up after him. You should let him fall! Let him fail! Let him learn that lesson, but you won’t, you never do!”. In a way it is true. Ching Yiu knows Chi Chun is now rotten, he even tried to poison Ching Yiu, he does things without thinking of consequences, he always explain Chi Chun’s unreasonable behaviour. Ching Hong loves Ching Yiu very much, but sometimes he does think, and rightfully so that Ching Yiu prefers Chi Chun over him. Many times Ching Hong would say to Ching Yiu “Sometimes I think between me and Chi Chun, you choose Chi Chun over me” and even their mother thinks so, in a very frank heart to heart talks where she told a very pensive looking Ching Yiu “Did you know Ching Hong is facing trouble? You wouldn’t, because you’re too caught up with Chi Chun. I know I shouldn’t be so heartless to say this, but you’re a Leung, you’re no longer a Sung, Ching Hong is your real brother, not Chi Chun, you should show you care about Ching Hong and not always running after Chi Chun”. And yet Ching Hong knows his brother is an upright person. He has issues but he tries not to blame his brother until Chi Chun almost accidentally killed Chi Ching. That’s when he lets it all out; and yet like any family, they patched things up later on. Ching Hong always forgives Ching Yiu as is Ching Yiu always forgiving Chi Chun for all he has done.
Another very good scene had Ka Pik realised she was cheated; when she married old Master Sung, she was not yet 20 and she was promised a piece of land where her father and older brother sold wine for over 2 decades. 2 decades later she found out she was never promised that land, Master Sung never intended to give her any land at all, and so her brother and father were booted off the land. She cried hard before Master Sung’s altar, “I can honestly say for 20 years I have served the Sung family well, and I have treated this family like my own. But you didn’t think of me as a family; I have given my youth to this family for nothing, nothing at all. Am I so unimportant to you? Am I so dispensable?” and in front of Ching Yiu who tried to explain the situation she tearfully said “I don’t blame Chi Chun for this; I blame you. You knew, and you never told me. You help the Sungs to bully me”. Which is true. A very good scene.
Surprisingly when it comes to crunch time, it was Chi Ching who was unforgiving. For one, she openly cried “I don’t have a brother like that!” when it comes to Chi Chun, and rightly so. When she found out Ching Yiu is in love with 3rd mom, she was incensed. She was the first to jump to conclusion and wanted to confront 3rd mom and Ching Yiu on the rumour, that it was wrong and when Madam Leung tried to stop her, even slapped her hard on the face and cried “You will do what I tell you to do! I want you to go back to your room, and you will listen to me as a daughter in law should to her mother in law! Now!” but Chi Ching refused, crying “What brother (Ching Yiu) did is wrong! He can’t be so immoral, so fall for 3rd mom! That is wrong! I can’t imagine how I can stay here under one roof with such a despicable person!” to which Ching Yiu volunteered to move out but Madam Leung refused and cried “You will stay! I waited 20 years for my son to come home, and he belongs here. Whoever who doesn’t like that, can leave!” and Chi Ching did. I like the fact Ching Hong didn’t interrupt. He didn’t know what to say actually until Madam Leung said gently “You go after her, I will be the devil, you will be the good guy, go”. She didn’t want the whole “affair” turn into a worst case scenario. And yet, the aunt who is very traditional in her thoughts was the one who tried to free 3rd Mom and even told Ching Yiu to take 3rd mom aka Ka Pik to leave as far away as possible. She knew of their forbidden love, they never acted on that but she knew how they felt and crying hard she begged Chi Chun to let them leave town. I was very surprised at this very different reaction. To Chi Ching, she saw forbidden incestuous love, for the aunt she understood why they fell for one another. But again Chi Ching is not unreasonable. A good heart to heart talk later by Ching Hong who said to her “Do you remember when we fell for one another? I don’t either but what I do know is my brother is your brother, by relationship, we shouldn’t even be together but he never objected to our relationship, he even fought for us. Imagine your 3rd mom, having widowed for so long, she was so young, they depended on one another over 2 decades, it is not hard to see why they fell for one another. We shouldn’t judge them so harshly”. I may have overdramatized the dialogue a little, but in essence that was what was said.
Another aspect I like about this series is the love relationships. I find them very grounded. The love between Chi Ching and Ching Hong is realistic and loving, the way she stood by her husband, defended his honour, the way he begged her to abort the child that was killing her, the way he can’t afford to lose her. It was very touching even if the scene after is bad writing. I mean if the child was killing her, she was so weakened, how on earth she could then walk into the court room and all to see her husband? Shouldn’t it be a struggle, physically? She seems suddenly quite well.
The forbidden love between Ching Yiu and Ka Pik was also very touching even if all of a sudden. I mean suddenly everybody, that is the aunt seems to know they’re in love and never quite question that at all. It’s like an accepted fact, and suddenly Ching Yiu seem rather romantic towards Ka Pik, the way they stared at each other, etc. Whatever it may be, I like their reunion scene, where Ching Yiu was due to be drowned for falling for 3rd mom, and 3rd mom came back to him eventhough he cried why she came back and she tearfully and calmly (probably due to the actress’ performance rather than the script itself) said “In life I can’t love you openly and freely, let me love you openly and freely in death” and finally, FINALLY they hugged. Right before then, not much touching.
But the relationship I liked most is between Yuk Fong and Chi Chun. No doubt, Chi Chun really really loved Yuk Fong; and luckily for Chi Chun, Yuk Fong is a positive influence; even Ching Yiu could see that. It is ironic that she is the daughter of Official Tsang who is the most corrupt of them all and yet she is very upright, and righteous. She will not hesitate to slap Chi Chun very hard, and she did it a few times. She always said “How can a morally upright man like Ching Yiu can have you as his brother? Can’t you be more like your brother? Can’t you learn to be like him more?” and of course Chi Chun will accuse her of being attracted to his brother, etc but those were angry words. In the end he always listens to Yuk Fong, although Yuk Fong in the end sees him as a lost cause and cried “I give up on you! I thought you’re capable of being good, but I was wrong. You’re rotten! I give up!”. However I didn’t like how this relationship ended, in the sense they married one another but there was no scene to show the reconciliation. Like I said, the ending was abrupt. I would like to see Yuk Fong looking at a changed Chi Chun and being rather impressed with what she saw.
But that is not to say this series is flawless. There are many characters that are wasted, such as the uncles of the Sung family, whose job in here is to incite and then nothing else. The story on how the shops were lost and won back wasn’t explained much, just blamed it on Official Tsang. There were many characters, but very few were properly developed. The scene how they rescued Ka Pik and Ching Yiu was shoddy storytelling. It was just too simple; and that almost cliffhanger with the last shot of Ching Yiu’s eyes closed, to inject some unwarranted suspense was just a waste of time; I’d rather more time spent on properly closing the series. In fact the whole drowning scene was something I waited for eagerly but when it was shown, it doesn’t fit in well with the overall story. It felt disjointed, as if an afterthought when it should have been milked to extreme. The death of Official Tsang is another, rather abrupt, sorta anti climax, and not quite enough. I wished for him to die a most terrible death but he didn’t. It was rather boring. But I suppose in the end this series does show even the worst villain is capable of love, as evidenced by Official Tsang’s love for his daughter as he died saving her. The ending scene was touching, in a way, with Ching Yiu and Ka Pik starting life anew in another town with Ka Pik’s brother and the rest remaining in Gau Gwong to develop further the Sung/Leung business and they’re connected with wine until Ching Yiu is free to return home. In fact I find Ching Yiu and Ka Pik’s lives very tragic. 20 years wasted.
And talking about 20 years, it should have been 15 years the most. Because the ages don’t add up. We know Ching Yiu is older than Ka Pik probably by a year or 2. She was not yet 20 when she was widowed. So she was probably 39 or 40 at the start of the series. That’s not the problem. Chi Chun was lost at the age of 7, Chi Ching was 5. So that makes her 25 and him 27 at the start. I find that a bit too much since Chi Ching’s behaviour was very youthful, young and Chi Chun himself too old to be impetuous. He has all the signs of a young angry man. The separation should have been 10 years tops. This is the only aspect I find unconvincing, apart from Chi Ching who seems to recover so soon.
Other than that, the story itself will definitely appeal to those who enjoy good well written dialogue and those who emphasise more on characters than the situation they’re in.
I suppose ultimately this series appeal to me in the sense that it is about the dynamics of a family. Everybody here genuinely cares about their family or a particular member of the family, even Chi Chun, even Official Tsang, for whatever reason. Even more interesting is the snippets of conversation revealing the past dynamics of such relationships. There is hardly any flashbacks, and I like that. What we know, we know through the dialogue. Like the relationship between Ching Yiu and his adopted father, with such trust placed on Ching Yiu, you know the old man must have treated him like a son already. Chi Chun happily remembered Ching Yiu as the older brother who helped him to escape from lesson on wine brewing when he was little, it shows how involved Ching Yiu was in the Sung family. Chi Ching angrily telling Chi Chun why she was on Ching Yiu’s side even if he was not related by blood, because of Ching Yiu, the women in the Sung family had place and respect. If it was up to the uncles, they would have taken the money and bullied the womenfolk of the Sung family. The business was well protected by Ching Yiu who obviously showed an aptitude towards management and running a business since 20 years before. Or Chi Ching relating how Ching Yiu jumped into freezing water to save her and thus developed coughs that never left him for 2 decades. Even Madam Leung and even Ching Hong’s conversation revealed how they had to avoid caring and loving Ching Yiu openly in the past, etc etc. This series shows a lot more by not actually showing. This is what I like about this series; it is not bombastic, it is not shoving down my throat with flashbacks after flashbacks, it does not really justify, it just shows, and let you decide. It does try very hard to tell us through the aunt, through Ching Yiu about how a good guy Chi Chun was, but then we have the other side of the story that shows him becoming ruthless, brutal, uncaring, unkind until in the end love saved him. His love for Chi Ching saved him from descending into total and utter madness. Jealousy was consuming him, but always at the back of his mind, surrounded by decent people like Yuk Fong he seems conflicted. He genuinely though Ching Yiu is the villain. I am also happy the ending wasn’t tragic. I hate it if it ended tragically. In this series, a happy ending is the best ending even if it is a bittersweet one. In that respect, the dialogue as in the script transformed what is the usual and the ordinary into something realistic and entertaining. Many times I find myself absorbed into what was said; the script actually made sense. Many scenes with memorable lines like I have written before this paragraph, those that sticks in my mind. Many more I never mentioned but is worth mentioning here; like that scene where I can’t remember who said it, could be Ching Yiu who said “Chi Chun is still the boy we knew. He deserves a chance. He is after all Chi Ching’s brother, for the sake of Chi Ching, let’s give him a chance” and I thought the reply was refreshing because it was realistic; Chi Ching, angry, pouting, raised her voice immediately and said “I don’t have that sort of man as my brother! He is no brother of mine!” which is again, for want of better words, realistic. And wonderfully delivered with the right amount of angst by Linda Chung. Time and time again we have such scenes of the Leungs wondering why Ching Yiu had to bend his back to help the despicable Chi Chun, with mother questioning him, brother questioning him, sisters questioning him, even Chi Ching questioning him and in the end, Ching Yiu himself questioned himself why he ever bothered, that he gave up on Chi Chun, but truth was he never did. He certainly on surface loved Chi Chun more than Ching Hong but I suppose it was his sense of duty towards the old Mr Sung as well as perhaps the memory of the 7 year old Chi Chun whom he remembered as kind and loyal. Probably to him nature of a person never changes. A particularly memorable sequence of scenes had Ching Yiu investing some Sung money into the new wine shop of Ching Hong, much to the chagrin of the Leungs so that if and he was certain it will happen, but if Chi Chun thew away the Sung family fortune he will still have half a share in Ching Hong’s business. He was getting ready for the what ifs, because he suspected it will happen and frankly, it did. Which was justice in my eyes because by that time I hated Chi Chun. Only towards the end with what he said to Ching Yiu finally redeemed him, but not towards what he did to 3rd mom though. That was unforgivable. At some point you will wonder Ching Yiu persists, why bother but throughout this series there were indications he was much like his dead father that is Mr Leung, a stubborn, upright, loyal person. He was bound by his promise to Master Sung. My only complaint with regards to the no flashback scenes is I would have hoped for more flashbacks with regards to Chi Chun and Ching Yiu 20 years before, to justify a bit why Ching Yiu so believe that Chi Chun can be led back to the path of I suppose goodness.
And one more aspect that someone pointed out to me; that she likes this series for its realism in the sense the women depended on men, even if a much younger men. That was how it was back in those days; that were why when 3rd mom was forbidden to leave by her “son”, him being the man of the house, she could not leave. Even the aunt can’t say much because she was considered a pariah for having divorced her husband or her husband divorced her. Even Ching Yiu couldn’t say much since he is not the biological son of the Sung family. Only Chi Ching dared speak up but even she sometimes fell victim to Chi Chun’s stubbornness. It is frustrating to watch but it is real.
As for the performances, generally some impressive performances.
Sire Ma is someone I didn’t know, and I think she did well. She has her bad habits; her eyes tend to drift to the camera, and she seems like she’s battling her nervousness but overall, I like her. I like her character very much, spunky, brave and I suppose the credit must go to her performance as well, even if the camera seems to like to zoom into her face and I find her delivery of her lines a bit stunted sometimes, her mouth a bit too much movements. She has yet to learn the art of subtlety, that will take experience. But she is a talent to look out for. By the way I love the fact she really slapped Pierre Ngo, so hard that I could hear the slap. Not once but I believe 3 times.
Suet Nei is also a surprise. I still remember thinking she was such a god awful actress in Happy Ever After or during those times and now, she actually is a joy to watch. Maybe it was Safe Guards but in here, her performance was fantastic. The scenes where she cried and begged and scolded and insulted, etc, she did it all. She has wonderful chemistry with Pierre Ngo and I love their scenes together.
Elena Kong is a competent actress, but I find the way she talks is too calm even if her expressions aren’t. There is no urgency in the way she speaks, like as if she is a Chinese language tutor teaching a class because her diction is amazing but hey, she is being pinned down, her hair roughly cut, being called a slut and she didn’t seem to sound desperate. The struggle wasn’t much, her voice… I don’t know how to put it, I just feel she’s just too calm. But overall I think she was competent, especially those crying scenes or the scenes where she was longing for Bowie, those unspoken passion between them.
Sunny Chan at first seems like deja vu to me; angry, angry, angry. He’s in a lot of angry roles these days, but as Ching Hong develops, you see a bit of the real Sunny Chan; happy go lucky sort of guy. I always think Sunny Chan as a very happy man. I find his performance very good in here. The scenes where he cried, scolded, shouted, the romantic him, the angry him, the unhappy him, I find him very believable and he does share a good chemistry with the cast, especially Nancy Sit who plays his mom and Linda Chung who plays his wife. He has some pretty good dialogue to deliver, especially those venting his anger at Bowie which is very realistically done but seriously, his best is the scene where he was tearfully begging Linda to abort their child. You know he asked what he asked out of love; he just couldn’t afford to lose her and that piece of acting is rather convincing.
Linda Chung has officially become my favourite actress in TVB. So many speculations of her winning an award for her performances, I feel if any, this should be it. The costumes in this series are fantastic and most of them are worn by Linda. I love her make up; it makes her look young. Her performance as Chi Ching is consistent and a joy to watch and I love the scenes where she is playful, cycling around and around or angry or the way she scolded or even the way she cried or pouted. Oh she can cry, really cry but for me her best isn’t crying, but the one where she gets mad and gets angry. There is a streak of fierceness and spunk and she showed them well. Like I said, this is one of her best and most convincing performance. Her best scenes are those confrontation scenes with Pierre and also Nancy Sit and yet in the simpler scenes where she sits and says her lines were fantastic as well. Chi Ching is someone very protected, probably pampered and the way Linda recites her lines, you can see a bit of pursed lips, a bit of high girly voice, giving her character the image of someone sweet, young and yet a feeling that everyone caters to her needs although it was obvious 3rd mom and Ching Yiu raised her well. She looks and behaves ladylike, classy and cute. But some of the best moments had to be her attention to details. Never seen any young actress portray a pregnant lady so convincingly, especially a heavily pregnant woman. The way she slowly walks, the way she slowly sits, the way she slowly pats her tummy, the way she would sigh or talks a bit out of breath because she was heavily pregnant. Very realistic performance and certainly I can see a glimmer of A Journey Called Life in here where A Journey Called Life remains till today her best and breakout performance with one of the most realistic birthing scene. However this is not her best performance; but it is a pretty damn close one.
Bowie Lam is very strange. He is charismatic as he is ugly. Let’s face it, think handsome and he isn’t one. But you can’t help but look at him. However in this series he seems to be breathing heavily. I wonder why? And his performance seems like a walkthrough. I mean he can act, he did well, but something is amiss. Like he wasn’t paying attention or maybe his character is too subdued in the first place. But when it comes to drama, the way he cried, that one scene as he begged his mom to not force him to reveal where he hidden the book of rebels’ names, and he said “Mother, please forgive your unfillial son!” and he knelt and cried so hard, I tell you, my heart almost break! That scene alone is worth the wait! And he shares great chemistry with the cast, especially Pierre Ngo. Love their interaction but I can’t help but feel this isn’t his best work. He wasn’t paying attention most of the time.
Pierre Ngo is talented, that we all know. He can act, that we all know. But in here one single scene impressed me till no end. It was a simple scene; he was asking Bowie to let him run the business, and Bowie said ok and he didn’t expect that. His face registered total and utter shock. That one single expression which is not easy to do. Other actors may give a surprised look, some dumbfounded surprised look, but Pierre gave us the trully total and utter shocked look without having to look dumbfounded or stupid or surprised or with his mouth opened or rapid blinking eyes or pouty lips. Very impressive acting. The rest also very impressive especially some harsh dialogues against Elena’s character, basically calling her a slut many times or the even worse scenes of bullying. Fans of Pierre will be pleased with his performance in here.
Lee Ka Sing is another standout. He tends to shout his lines but you just need to turn the volume down a little on your own, because the performance itself fits the story and fits the character. His anger, his frustration, and when he became insane, you kinda feel this would be the best fate for him. He seemed far happier. One very good scene didn’t involve him physically but did involve him in name, where Ka Pik said to Ching Yiu “My brother used to protect me when I was little, everytime I was bullied, he would be there to beat the bullies away. He loved me very much, I just wonder when did he change? When did he become addicted to gambling that he had forsaken everything?” Remember what I said earlier? This series shows the 2 sides of every character; not to justify a certain action but rather that everyone, whether good or bad is capable of doing very bad things and yet capable of doing very good things.
I always thought Jazz Lam is Jazz Lam but the cast list says it is Alex Lam. Jazz or Alex, this is surely before Ghetto Justice? Because his role here is small and sometimes insignificant. But he is a good actor, excelling in those rough uneducated friend of the friend. I still remember him in I believe his debut, King of Comedy. There is a reason why Stephen Chow cast him in that movie and I need not state the obvious. But he is wasted in here.
The young girl who plays Sunny’s youngest sister, I suppose Cilla Kung is her name was the worst of the newbies. She shouts her every line, always overacted and over the top. Luckily her scenes were very very few.
Kok Fung wasted. Lau Kong basically is the shining villain. Can’t imagine the same actor, same look, in Ghost Writer was the good guy, in this series, the bad guy. Absolutely same look.
The worst for last.
Nancy Sit. Shame on her. She is the veteran and her performance was worse than the newbies. She is so darn dramatic. The way she delivered her lines, she could turn a very serious scene into a joke. Her huge sighs, her funny punctuations, her tendency of walking here there everywhere when delivering a line. She is the reason why this series sucks if there is any reason to give. Luckily she isn’t the only actor in here, but she is nearly in every scene. Can someone just tell Nancy Sit to just drop the dramatics and act? Just act naturally. No “AH! You must AH! tell official Tsang AH! where AH! you hid AH! the book AH!!” please. I watch this series I was very annoyed with her. Already Linda’s voice is a tad too high, which can be quite irritating to those who dislike her, so imagine her next to queen of the AHs. More irritating than necessary. What a shame! A better actress would have given this role a better interpretation. What a waste.
By the way, Evergreen Mak is in this series. His character is honourable, he played him well, more of a distraction than really part of the flow of the story. My only shock is how much weight he has gained. He looked pregnant.
I know the ratings are low, but that doesn’t mean this is no good. Whatever I may say about the abrupt and anti climatic ending, the series itself is to me like a breath of fresh air. Yes it is familiar, but not done to death. The settings are real scenery, the costumes beautiful (in fact every single piece worn by the ladies is absolutely gorgeous), the make up gorgeous, the story intriguing and most of all, if you are sick to death of those pretentious storyline that doesn’t make sense other than just being cool, this is a story that combines style and a whole lot of substance. It is not the best series ever or of the year, nor the best acted, but a combination of many elements makes this series into a very entertaining one. It is a pity many didn’t give it a chance. It is slow, no doubt, but this is like fine wine, it takes time to develop, to brew, to nurture and at some point I am sure you will find at least on character you will like to watch, a scene you find memorable and a series that in time will prove to be worthy of the term “a well scripted and a well made” series. You can’t have perfection, so I shall forgive the abrupt ending and it is a testament to how well it was doing if a viewer grumbles that it should have been longer rather than shorter.
Fans of Pierre Ngo, Linda Chung and Sunny Chan must watch this series for their fine performances.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.