Just One Look

Just One Look

Rating: 7/10
Year: 2002
Genre: Drama
Director: Riley Yip
Cast: Shawn Yu, Wong Yau-Nam, Gillian Chung, Charlene Choi, Anthony Wong, Eric Kot

According to the promotional slogan, Just One Look is about first love. To a certain extent, it is correct, this film features a puppy love story among a group of teenagers. In a metaphorical sense, however, it is more like a love story between the director Riley Yip and Hong Kong cinema.

What is significant about this film is its nostalgic setting. Riley Yip has successfully recreated the 1960-70s period of Hong Kong (Cheung Chau to be exact). The setting and the costume design of the characters are carefully arranged, that you can really feel the professionalism and the seriousness of the filmmakers' effort. Contrary to Joe Ma's Summer Breeze of Love in which the story is told in the girls' perspective, this film is focused around the two male characters, Shawn Yu and Wong Yau-Nam. Gillian and Charlene do not share too much screening time as compared to Summer Breeze of Love. If your only objective is to watch Twins, you'll probably feel disappointed.

Having said that, it does not mean this film is not worth to watch. The story, presented from a male perspective, is actually quite interesting. I am not sure if director Riley Yip has incoporated any of his personal experience into the script or not, but what is certain is that the story shows his genuine love toward Hong Kong cinema. Through the main setting of the film, that is, the movie theater in Cheung Chau, Yip recalls the collective memory of the older generations about their time and reminds us how vigorous the film business was in the past. The comparison of the past and that of the lifeless and dying film industry in Hong Kong today is really sorrowful.

Similar to Yip's previous film Metade Fumaca, metaphors are used brilliantly in this film. Yip makes us aware of the ambivalent relationship between the audience and Hong Kong cinema through a series of events and characters. For instance, the character of Eric Kot is a typical example of Hong Kong movie audience. He always tells his students that Hong Kong movies are crappy and prohibits them from watching, but he himself is always the first one to buy ticket and watch any newly released Hong Kong films, he even remembers the scenes of most of the films he has watched. No doubt this character has a very contradictory personality, but it is in fact a very genuine portrait of a typical Hong Kong movie audience. Another example is the character of Anthony Wong. His character is the representative of Hong Kong cinema. The way he is being attacked by Shawn Yu for ten years parallels to the fact that Hong Kong movies are being "attacked" by local movie critics and audience for a long time since the decadence of the Hong Kong film industry in the mid 1990s. It seems that Riley Yip wanted to pose a question for us - Do we actually hate Hong Kong cinema that much? If the film industry really dies, just like the death of Wong in the film, will we celebrate happily or feel bad as Shawn Yu does?

Without doubt Just One Look is a carefully crafted work. The subject matter is handled sincerely by the director. However, it lacks entertaining value. As compared to the funny Metade Fumaca that is full of surprising twists, the story of this film is too dry and insipid. In short, it is a good personal statement, but not a qualified mainstream commercial film.

Reviewed by: Kantorates