Review: ‘One and a Half’

(Mandarin dialogue version)

(Mandarin dialogue version)

Aslight but appealing drama, about an ex-con’s journey of discovery with a kid who may or may not be his son, “One and a Half” reps the return of Hong Kong director Lawrence Ah Mon to more personal pics after several commercial moneymakers during the early ’90s. Though too small for theatrical play in the West, the movie is well suited to festival and small-screen outings.

In its 92-minute Cantonese version, pic was closing attraction at this year’s Hong Kong fest in April. However, item plays better in the present, slightly longer version, which includes some extra small scenes and more authentic Mandarin dialogue.

Charismatic Mainland thesp Zhang Fengyi (the “male” partner in “Farewell My Concubine”) is Ma, a H.K. illegal who’s finally sent back to Shanghai after seven years and finds the city and his personal life totally changed. His wife, Du Xia (Hong Kong actress Carrie Ng), has divorced him and married an intellectual, and attempts to meet his young son are blocked by her businessman brother (Paul Chun), who claims Ma’s son died soon after birth.

Ma finally “kidnaps” his ex-wife’s child, whom he believes to be his own, and the pair set out on an odyssey around the countryside north of the city, bonding as they go. When the kid is injured in a railroad drama one stormy night, all parties finally get together and Ma learns the truth of the matter.

It’s a movie of small incidents, played in generally restrained style and beautifully shot in everyday locations in and around Shanghai and Suzhou. A warm score by Huang Yi does much to underpin the visuals, only occasionally tipping over into melodrama.

Zhang dominates the film as the dogged, caring father, with young Xiao Junkun appealing, without being over-cute, as the tyke. Ng gets few chances until late on to flesh out her character; Chun is smoothly menacing as the brother.

Helmer Ah Mon is best known for his earlier Hong Kong-set “Gangs” and prostie pic “Queen of Temple Street.”

Current item, co-scripted by well-known Mainland writer Liu Heng (“Judou, “”The Story of Qiuju”), is his most nuanced, unaffected movie to date. Chinese title means “Walk With Me Awhile.”

One and a Half

(GEN WO ZOU YI HUI)

Production

(HONG KONG) A Media Asia Films, Prosper Film production, in association with Shanghai Film Studio and China Film Coproduction Corp. (Intl. sales: Media Asia Distribution, H.K.) Produced by F.K. Ma, Stephen Chan. Executive producers, Wellington Fung, Chan. Directed by Lawrence Ah Mon. Screenplay, Liu Heng, Cheung Tan.

Crew

Camera, Lui Lok; editor, Tuo Yun; music, Huang Yi; art direction, Qin Bosong; costume design , Cheung Sai-wun; sound (Dolby), Wu Kwong; assistant director, Cindy Lau; associate producer, Yang Yang. Reviewed on Media Asia videocassette, London, July 15, 1995. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Ma Bencheng ... Zhang Fengyi Du Xia, his Ex-Wife ... Carrie Ng Her Elder Brother ... Paul Chun Du Xiaozheng, the Kid ... Xiao Junkun
With: Fang Danbo, Wu Jing, He Younan, He Jiaju.
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