'Echoes of the Rainbow'

A nostalgic family melodrama with its heart in the right place.

A nostalgic family melodrama with its heart in the right place, “Echoes of the Rainbow” is diverting and even affecting while never quite straying from tried and tested formulas. Writer-helmer Alex Law’s largely autobiographical tale focuses on a struggling but loving working-class family with two sons who live in a sentimental version of 1969 Hong Kong. Mostly sweet without becoming saccharine, the pic should find a small pot of gold at the end of its local run, which begins March 11. Fests and tube buyers looking for solidly made, family-friendly fare are likely to tap in.

Walking around with a fishbowl over his head, 8-year-old “Big Ears” Law (Buzz Chung, expressive and cute) wants to be the bustling city’s first astronaut, a couple of months before Neil Armstrong lands on the moon. A bad student and something of a rascal, he might be tiny but he knows what he wants.

His handsome 16-year-old brother is his polar opposite: Desmond Law (Cantopop poster boy Aarif Lee, good) is a brainiac champion athlete at an English-language high school that the boys’ shoemaker father (vet Simon Yam, dignified) and can-do mother (Sandra Ng, in a more serious role than usual) can barely afford.

Subtle hints already suggest a storm is brewing, though the first hour mainly sketches a loving and carefree childhood that feels authentic, even if the cutesy Hong Kong the protags live in is clearly a nostalgic re-creation rather than something resembling the real deal.

Just when it seems there’s no real reason to take an interest in this perfectly happy family, a typhoon threatens to destroy their modest home and store, turning the pic into a full-blown, somewhat predictable melodrama. It’s thanks to the strong ensemble work of the actors, both veterans and newcomers, that the film doesn’t capsize in a sea of sentimentality.

Sets, bathed in a soft golden light, and Charlie Lam’s somewhat flat lensing make the pic look like a throwback to Hong Kong studio pictures of yesteryear, while Henry Lai’s whirling score cranks up the melodrama.

Echoes of the Rainbow

Hong Kong

Production

A Big Pictures, Dada Media, Sky Cosmos Development presentation of a Sky Cosmos Development production. (International sales: Mei AH Entertainment, Hong Kong.) Produced by Mabel Cheung. Executive producers, John Sham, Li Kuo Shing, Liu Rong. Co-producer, Candy Leung. Directed, written by Alex Law.

Crew

Camera (color), Charlie Lam; editor, Kong Chi Leung, Chan Chi Wai; music, Henry Lai; production designer, Alfred Yau; sound (Dolby Digital), Kinson Tsang; special effects, Yee Kwow Leung, Lim Hung Fung, Lai Man Chun; associate producer, Catherine Hun. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation Kplus), Feb. 15, 2010. Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Buzz Chung, Aarif Lee, Simon Yam, Sandra Ng, Evelyn Choi, Paul Chiang, Teresa Loo, Ann Hui, Vincent Kok, Larry Lau, Clifton Ko.
(Cantonese, English, Mandarin, French dialogue)

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