Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Home Song Stories (意)
Winning eight Australian Film Institute Awards (out of 14 nominations), two Golden Horse Awards (out of seven nominations), and many other awards around the globe, "The Home Song Stories (意)" (Australia 2007, 103 min.) is the Australian's entry for Oscar nomination in the Foreign Language Film category. Based on Chinese Australian writer/director Tony Ayres's own childhood memories, "The Home Song Stories (意)" tells a very personal story about family, love, survival, betrayal, and forgiveness.
Through the eyes of an 11-years-old boy Tom (Joel Lok), the film shares us with the bumpy ride of his new immigrant family living in Australia in the 1960s. Tom's mom Rose (Joan Chen) is a glamorous nightclub singer from Shanghai. When Rose performed in a Hong Kong night club, she met and wed an Australia sailor Bill, and moved to Australia with her son Tom and daughter May. Only 10 days later, she left Bill and moved around from "uncle" to "uncle." Finally, Rose fell in love with young chef "Uncle Joe," (Qi Yuwu), an illegal immigrant.
However, the ordinary family life didn't last long. The relationships among the family members went complicated when unrequited love became part of their lives.
The film is deeply personal and touching, but not sentimental. Just like Tom, the 11-years-old boy, we gradually begin to understand what it takes to be able to survive and to bring food to the table.
While the ensemble casts deliver an outstanding performance to the film, Joan Chen and Joel Lok stand out impressively. Joan Chen amazingly plays Rose and gives another her best performances in recent years, as in "The Sun Also Rises (太阳照常升起)." Joel Lok tells us Tom's lost childhood story with what he sees with his curious, confused, yet observant eyes. When he is bored, he plays bridge with himself, even though he is not very good at it (he bids one diamond after one heart in the film).
Although this is no where to be an extraordinary family, but certainly this is an extraordinary film about the family. Rose is back to life vividly, just as Tony Ayres intended.