Tuesday, 14 October 2014

LFF REVIEW - DEAREST (PETER CHAN)


Though there is no reasonable suggestion that the true story that inspired Peter Chan's Dearest is, in both origin and outcome, a predominantly emotional one, and powerfully so, there's a very reasonable suggestion that Chan's melodramatic film is, essentially, misguided in its approach. That story, about child abduction in China, where societal and political structures make such crimes alarmingly common, is propelled by occurrences that inherently induce vivid emotions - sorrow, anger, hope, as basic as they are bold, and wholly worthy. Chan's overactive direction makes a smart attempt at stylistically realising the mental turmoil of his characters, with a restless, flailing style that is as wayward as Chan's application of it. Some of his tonal and narrative reconfigurations make total sense, and are justified by that fact, since the factual basis for the plot affords them real validity and purpose; others, particularly as Dearest approaches its unwieldy close, don't add much to the film as a whole. Principally, Chan comes across conflicted between telling a very personal story of the intense anguish caused to a small few people by a very simple, brief act, and the grander, national significance of said story. Even the cumbersome musical score has trouble returning to specific motifs, just as Chan's filmmaking becomes sporadically diverted from the story's main propellants: the emotions. Yet one detects the sincerity in his intentions, and his outstanding talent in handling actors. Every principal performer, of which there are several, is at least good, at best astonishingly so. The child actors Li Yi Qing, Zhou Pin Rui and Zhu Dong Xu merit special mention for their awe-inspiring work, radiating spontaneity and an extraordinary depth of feeling and understanding. Had Peter Chan displayed such a level of supreme emotional insight, Dearest would be an outright masterpiece.