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Film Review: Lacuna

2012-07-17 11:16:54        Chinese Films

Shawn Yue (L) and Zhang Jingchu (R) in the film.[]


Beijing, the present day. After a heavy night of drinking, Shen Wei (Shawn Yue) wakes up next to Tong Xin (Zhang Jingchu) in a bed in a furniture store. Neither can remember how they got there, and quietly go their separate ways. Shen Wei, however, can't find his car. Back in his hotel room, he finds the place full of comatose people, and at work his colleagues tease him about pictures on the web of him drinking with actress Meng Qiqi (Yan Wenxuan) and Tong Xin. Shen Wei remembers nothing. Meanwhile, Tong Xin is called by her boss, film director Shen Lei (Zhang Nan), asking her whether she delivered the RMB300,000 (US$47,000) he gave her to quietly end his relationship with Qiqi. Tong Xin can't remember whether she handed the money over or, if she didn't, where it is now; and in her bag is a live frog. She tries to reach Qiqi but the latter doesn't answer her phone. Shen Wei's friends tell him they all went out to celebrate the birthday of an unattached female friend, Jinny (Wang Meiqian), and ended up drinking in one club after another, with Shen Wei losing his friend Baimao (Lawrence Chou) en route and somehow getting hooked up with the equally drunk Tong Xin. Meanwhile, Tong Xin meets her ex-boyfriend Zhang Lei (Zhu Yuchen) and his new girlfriend Stephy (Lin Ziluo) and hears how the three of them, plus Shen Wei, went clubbing last night. Tong Xin still remembers nothing. Then Shen Wei gets a call from Sanlitun Police Station asking him and "his girlfriend" to come and collect their pet that they reported missing last night. He meets Tong Xin and, on the way, the two collect a bag from Vic's night club, where they're told they spent RMB90,000 last night. Their puzzlement is doubled when they see the pet they have to collect at the police station. But even then the whole mystery of what happend last night isn't nearly solved.


An offbeat rom-com set across 24 hours, in which two strangers try to piece together how they woke up in bed together after a massive bender, Lacuna is a major leap in quality by Hong Kong directors Derek TSANG (son of veteran Eric Tsang) and Jimmy WAN after their first feature, the thin portmanteau movie Lover's Discourse (2010). Whereas that movie seemed to be stretching a sliver of content across each of the four stories, and with little to say, Lacuna takes a single cute idea and sustains it across an hour and a half with no sense of strain or repetitiveness. That's partly due to the clever script by GU Yu and ZHANG Youyou that just keeps springing fresh twists but also to the natural screen chemistry between Mainland actress ZHANG Jingchu, who's had trouble finding a niche after earlier successes like The Road (2005), and Hong Kong actor-singer Shawn YUE, too often under-exploited in cold action roles.

The film partly owes its genesis to Hong Kong director-producer PANG Ho-cheung's series of Mainland shorts made for the internet, 4+1 (2010), the first of which was directed by Tsang and Wan, and the other three by Taiwan's Leste CHEN. Each running about 50 minutes, and in two halves, they featured some of the same actors as Lacuna and many of the same crew, including writers Gu and Zhang, d.p. Charlie LAM, plus expert scoring by LI Yaoshi and skilful editing by Hong Kong's Wenders LI. Zhang Jingchu and Yue starred separately in the best-acted ones, both directed by Chen: Yue in War of Lies (2010), about an ex-couple who pretend to be together for family reasons, and Zhang in When Love Spreads on Weibo (2010), about an ex-couple who revisit their past. Pang's idea of bringing the two stars together for the first time pays dividends: both spark gently off each other throughout the story's twists and turns, and then blossom in the rom part of the com in the final half-hour.

In glasses and tousled hair, Zhang, now in her mid-30s, looks more relaxed and natural. Four years her junior, Yue, who needs the right roles to bloom as a likeable screen character, finds the same easy tone he displayed under Pang as a director (Love in a Puff (2010), Love in the Buff). Though their roles require them both to keep saying "I don't remember" a lot of the time, they make the characters interesting enough to share their journey, as well as avoiding meet-cute cliches. They're supported by a colourful cast of Mainland personalities, big and small, as well as getting a couple of good scenes with two more actors from 4+1 β€” Hong Kong-born singer-actor Lawrence CHOU as a Cantonese friend of Yue's character and Mainland actor ZHU Yuchen as the ex-boyfriend of Zhang's.

Though some poetic moments in the final section show their Hong Kong sensibilities, Tsang and Wan show a feel for autumnal Beijing, its night-life and gruff denizens, without seeming like cultural tourists, and Yue himself acts easily in Mandarin. The script's MacGuffin β€” what happened to a missing bag of money? β€” keeps the movie alive as it tours the eastern part of the city and the pieces ever so slowly fall into place. Lacuna is basically a playful construct, spattered with humour that wouldn't be out of place in one of Pang's own movies; but it does its job with style and charm, as well as providing a tour de force for its two leads.

Source: Film Business Asia

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