FLARE 2010 - '10th of May' by Wong Ruyi


10th of May is an ode to family soap operas. It is also hard not to bring to mind the current popularity of the never-ending Taiwanese serial 'Love' or '爱‘ when you think about the petty feuds that go on this film. In essence, a girl (Rebecca) is about to get married but her mum's insistence on the traditional tea ceremony leads to some awkward feelings when the people on the other side of the marriage are more modern. Little peeves and disagreements grow into acidic Cantonese drama faster than you can say Channel 8.

However, it is a meticulously put together film with great attention paid to location, props and talents (plenty of care-lare-fares too!). If you can stomach the melodrama, good for you because that's one hurdle down. The other is a dealing with the mum's secret. Picture a Cantonese speaking mother etched firmly in her traditional beliefs dialing into a very strange line. It's an 'Ang Moh' sounding man on the other line. His voice is evocative and strangely 'canned'. As he speaks, she gets more aroused and slides her hands inside her flaming-red cheongsam. What's new? Repressed people need to entertain themselves. But wait. Aren't we still on Channel 8?

'10th of May' exists in 2 distinct genres interspersed with each other. One is tension-filled family drama. One is a really strange brand of erotica. How the 2 can co-exist is quite hard to come to terms with. It is possible that director is trying hard to push the envelope. But it seems giving a 180 degree twist to a character without the luxury of a feature length film to explain it, is pushing the film off its intended path.

In fact, the mum is one complex character that steals most of the limelight (except for the hilariously stilted one-liners from her ah soh friends). The actress, pregnant with emotions, seems to be struggling under the misguidedness of her character, somehow seeming like she has got multiple personality disorder. It is evident that it is a very meaty role to play. From the pain of single motherhood to putting with the scorn from the in-laws to being at odds with her daughter's wishes to succumbing to her primal needs, it's a roller coaster journey for the character and the actress. While the role is difficult to fill, the director could be a lot more decisive to be helpful. While the film presents itself strongly on the more familiar themes of clash of values and social classes, it wavers when treading on less familiar grounds.

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