Monday, September 27, 2010

After This Our Exile (2006)

I watched the complete restored director's cut which runs two hours and forty minutes, some forty minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I had picked the film up because the description on the DVD case promised one thing; how it delivered that story was not what I expected. (I also picked it up because I love the English title)

As the film opens a boy is being sent off to school by his mother. She is being especially nice to him and he suspects something is wrong. Sneaking off the bus, he returns home to find his mother packing up her things preparing to leave him and his father. He runs off to tell his dad, who returns home in time to stop her from leaving. Dad manages to talk her into staying, but it isn't for long. His mother eventually departs, leaving the boy and his father alone to take on the world, and the money men he owes because of his out of control gambling.

This heartbreaking tale of two souls adrift in life's storms makes for compelling viewing. The performances by everyone involved, especially Aaron Kwok as the father, are very real and emotional. It's painful at times looking into the lives of these people. They are not good or bad, they are just people...which is readily apparent when Kwok, his wife having just left him, breaks down on the couch, grasping desperately at his son, pleading with him not to leave him too. It's a heavy moment. The movie is full of heavy moments, many of them that rung true with me, having lived through similar ones with parents and friends.

The film is technically a marvel with a look that is stunning, as is the use of the widescreen. Even better is the use of music, both in its original score and its use of songs from elsewhere. Director Patrick Tam is also listed as music designer, a title I've never heard of before, but which is aptly put in the present case. If the film has a flaw it's that in this cut it's a bit too long. As I said earlier this is forty minutes longer than the theatrical version, which must move at a better clip. However I would be remiss in not saying I really couldn't tell you what I would cut to speed the film up, or if I did have an idea I certainly wouldn't know where to cut forty minutes.

On a more personal note I was slightly disappointed in the very end of the movie. There is something about it that left me unsatisfied, I suspect because it doesn't provide an end...rather a "stop". It's a minor thing that I can't explain, but it's what prevented me from completely falling head over heels with the film, something I felt sure I was going to do. Don't get me wrong, this is a really good movie, it's just the last second of the film just made me go "wha...?". Frankly I'm going to have to watch the final portion of it again to see if it makes a difference on a second viewing.

Minor reservation aside, you need to track this film down because it's a heartbreaking masterpiece.

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