Film Review: Glamorous Youth

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Bottom Line: Sprawling social drama effectively captures the nuance of contemporary life.
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HONG KONG -- Hong Kong film critic Philip Yung makes his directorial debut with "Glamorous Youth," an almost episodic drama centering on three high school boys and their families in a search for the perfect life after 1997.

Hong Kong's relation to China is becoming more and more of a common topic within the industry's independent scene, and here Yung tries to bring a little social realism to the game. The rambling, lackadaisical pace suits the subject, and Yung is almost guaranteed a slot in a wide range of film festivals. An art house release at home is a distinct possibility, but it's too geographically specific for limited release elsewhere in Asia.

Kin-hong (Nelson Yung) and his friends Tai-hong (Kwok Hiu-fai) and Spiderman (Cameron Lau) all have teenage problems. Kin-hong is mired in boredom and familial disillusionment, Tai-hong is experiencing early sexual problems and is already reliant on masturbation and hookers, and Spiderman is desperate to break free of the apathy to which Kin-hong seems resigned.

The adults that surround them aren't much better off: Kin-hong's parents exist in fantasy worlds, his girlfriend Kaka's (Louise Wong) single mother is lost to depression, and teacher Mr. Chong (Joey Leung) is lonely despite his friendship with the school's principal (Pai Piao). The characters flail about looking for something, anything, they can latch onto as a goal -- love, success -- feeling lost when nothing materializes.

Yung, who also wrote the screenplay, has a keen eye for small details that have more of a cumulative impact, though things could be heightened with some tighter editing. But his portrait of everyday life in the shadow of expectation is vivid, and the rhythms of the main characters' decidedly unglamorous (yet sweetly nostalgic) youth is a strength. The camera work is unfussy (with properly lit HD photography).

When Kin-hong meets Siu Yue (Sherry Lee), a Shenzhen girl with money problems, he packs up and runs off with her, looking to the newly accessible Chinese mainland for what's missing at home. Whether he finds it is the film's final grace note, ambiguously melancholic and appropriately low-key.

Production companies: Digital Jungle Production Ltd.
Cast: Nelson Yung, Kwok Hiu-fai, Cameron Lau, Tai Bo, Louise Wong, Joey Leung, Pai Piao, Sherry Lee
Director: Philip Yung
Screenwriter: Philip Yung
Producer: Chang Wen
Director of photography: Harry Lee
Art directors: Tempo Cheung, Erica Chan
Music: Rachel Kar
Editor: Eddie Chu, William Ho, Chan Ho-chun
Sales: InD Blue
No rating, 136 minutes
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