An uneven, intermittently appealing comic entry from Canadian helmer Derek Diorio, “House of Luk” interweaves tales of three men whose fates are whimsically altered by their fortune cookie predictions at a local restaurant. Whereas one story is a poignant look at family estrangement and reconciliation, another blends darker undertones with comic riffs. The third, meanwhile, is an over-the-top segment that strains for laughs to the point of being nearly offensive. Bolstered by two recognizable names in its cast, pic could eke out a theatrical life beyond the festival circuit in some territories.
Best of the tales concerns loquacious building contractor Chuck Warden (Pierre Brault), who can’t connect with either his mother (Elaine Klimasko), who hasn’t spoken since the death of her husband years ago, or his emotionally distant teen son (Mark Bastianelli).
To jumpstart his relationship with his son, Chuck decides to buy him a violin. But while the boy isn’t much of a violinist, Chuck’s mother turns out to be a natural. In an achingly beautiful, wordless scene, the violin becomes a catalyst for reconciliation. Klimasko, a concert violinist and nonpro actor, is lovely here, imbuing her character with deep wells of sadness and nostalgia; Brault matches her emotional notes.
As it turns out, the violin itself is has a rare history, recounted to Chuck by a local violin shopkeeper in a splendidly understated monologue by Michael Moriarty. This segment could easily have been fleshed out enough to stand on its own; it’s so emotionally effective and well-executed that the other two pale by comparison.
Marshall Warden (pic’s scribe Dan Lalande) is a down on his luck salesman who tries to marry off his ex-wife (an appealingly sardonic Lorraine Ansell) to avoid paying alimony. Even lamer third story concerns Ho Fook (John Ng), an interior decorator who preaches the ancient art of feng shui but can’t apply its principles to himself.
“House of Luk,” which is presided over by restauranteur Hwang Luk (Pat Morita), never looks cheap. Michael Tien’s vivid lensing evokes Shuca Chalifour’s carefully realized art direction, helping to articulate the tonal differences among the three pieces.