Directed by Pang Ho-Cheung
Family / Drama, 97′
‘Aberdeen’ (also known as 香港仔 or 人间小团圆) is a 2014 touching Hong Kong drama which revolves around the fractured relationships and conflicts within the middle class Cheng family.
The film boasts a star studded cast, with impressive performances from the cast which includes Louis Koo (‘Rob-B-Hood’; ‘Overhead’ series; ‘Out Of Inferno’); Eric Tsang (‘Hitman’; ‘Accidental Spy’; ‘Infernal Affairs’); Gigi Leung (‘The Monkey King’; ‘Love On The Rocks’; ‘The Secrets Of the Magic Gourd’); Ng Man-tat (‘God Of Gamblers’; ‘Shaolin Soccer’; ‘Royal Tramp’) and Miriam Yeung (‘Hooked On You’; ‘Perfect Wedding’; ‘Sound Of Colours’).
Under the creative direction of Pang Ho-Cheung (‘Love In A Puff’; ‘Vulgaria’), who demonstrates once more that he is capable of capturing small moments that have the most significance, the film reveals the personal struggles faced by the characters. ‘Aberdeen’ depicts responses in which we can empathise and judge the characters’ actions and motives, and in turn make us appreciate our own lives.
The film wastes little time in exposition with Pang demonstrating his willingness to forego traditional narrative structure. Instead, the narrative shifts directly to the present where the problems have already occurred.
Pang keeps the causes of the family members’ problems and conflicts a mystery, a clever move which serves to engage the audience by making them actively question what could have happened, and guess where the narrative could potentially lead the many characters.
Wai-ching (Miriam Yeung) is a tour guide working at a museum during the day, commenting upon the historic colonial rule in Hong Kong of the British, however not only does she gets upstaged by visitors, but she is also haunted by nightmares of her childhood experiences with extreme mummy issues in her personal life. Her husband Yau Kin-cheung (Eric Tsang) works at the hospital as a doctor but is secretly engaged in an affair for nearly a year with Van (Dada Chan) a much younger nurse.
The shift then turns to Wai-ching’s brother, Wai-tao (Louis Koo), a successful spokesman with a specific twisted ideology; so obsessed with physical beauty, he does not believe that is daughter is beautiful enough to be his progeny so he plans a secret DNA test to determine if he really is her father.
We would come to understand that neither of the Cheng siblings gets along with their father Dong (Ng Man-tat) who works as a Taoist priest. It would also seem that Wai-ching and Wai-tao disapprove of their father due to his long-term relationship after their mother passed away with Ta (Carrie Ng), a nightclub hostess.
Whilst the slapstick humour and breezy romance which define Pang’s previous work like ‘Vulgaria’ and ‘Love In A Puff’ are present, ‘Aberdeen’ feels like a much more personal film with more serious issues and themes. Pang again foregrounds Hong Kong as a distinct cultural space, with well-defined cultural and social problems, all played out by the dysfunctional Cheung family.
Special praise must be given for the impressive cinematography and the use of creative visuals in certain scenes such as the stylistic shots for the nightmare sequence combined with the blend of buildings which show Aberdeen as a deliberately and artificially constructed space.
‘Aberdeen’ was only rated 6.1/10 on IMDB in comparison to his previous titles which were better received, perhaps due to the shift in tone from Pang’s previous efforts. However, the film represents a great challenge undertaken by Pang Ho-Cheung as he tries not to repeat the formula of previous successes, but rather create something different and fresh. ‘Aberdeen’ is an enjoyable and thought provoking film which cements Pang’s status as one of the best film directors in Hong Kong today.