The Age of Miracles

Reviewed by YTSL

There are many examples from the world of film-making of "big" not necessarily being better and, in fact, often being rather disastrous (Think of Kevin Costner's "Waterworld" and Warren Beatty's "Ishtar"!).  Such is the case with this 1996 United Filmmakers Organization (UFO) production:  An ambitious eighteen month -- an eternity by Hong Kong movie making standards -- project which its producer and director described as "something I really wanted to do" and "put all my time and effort into" but retrospectively admitted "did not come out too well" as well as was "over-budget, over-scheduled" (See the Peter Chan interview in Miles Wood's 1998 "Cine East" book).

Anita and Roy Chiao
A lot of the problems had to do with the horrendous make-up job on the lead actress, Anita Yuen, who was required to play both a sixty-eight year old matriarch as well as a young mother.  While I had read quite a bit about this prior to watching THE AGE OF MIRACLES, it still came as a shock to behold the sight of it (at its best, looking way too fake; at other times, actually looking like bits of it had peeled away).  It didn't help either that the make-up job on Eric Tsang (here playing a long time, similar aged friend of his quite frequent co-star) was just as apt to distract the viewer from the story.  Ditto re there being the bane of many a Hong Kong film (notably the 1999 "A Man Called Hero"):  Some amazingly amateurish -- or at least amazingly cheesy -- computer generated special effects that majorly put a damper on my efforts to achieve the requisite amount of suspension of disbelief that this film demanded of its viewers.
Anita and Eric Tsang
And if all this weren't bad enough, THE AGE OF MIRACLES additionally suffers from laying sentiment and emotion on way too thick -- and too long -- in too many parts of this well-meaning but ultimately hard to take (seriously) paean to the family, especially mother.  We are, after all, talking about a movie whose main characters are:  A widowed mother who made a pact with the gods to take ten years of(f) her life so that her elder son's would live; and the nearly drowned boy who grows up to be an amazingly filial son (as other elderly parents point out to the mother after she tells tales about her offspring.  N.B.  Although Alan Tam does not do all that much wrong, it was difficult for me to accept as Anita Yuen's character's son an actor I last saw hotly pursuing Brigitte Lin in the 1984 romantic comedy entitled "The Other Side of Gentlemen"...).  To be fair, it will be pointed out that the woman does balk quite a bit when her time to die nears.  However, I have to say that it was after she made her second pact with the heavenly representative (poignantly played by the late Roy Chiao) that the film REALLY went downhill for me.
Alan Tam, Teresa Carpio and Christine Ng
Perhaps if this had not been a UFO offering, I would not have as high expectations -- even with the prior knowledge about the make-up problems being so bad that it negatively affected Anita Yuen's performance (Again, cf. Peter Chan's interview in "Cine East") -- and thus be so disappointed as well as dissatisfied by THE AGE OF MIRACLES.  As it stands, there still are some inspired moments and ideas in this too uneven cinematic piece.  I think it says something though that those were largely asides which induced hysterical laughter rather than the main segments which sought to tug at one's heart.  If only the movie had had more humorous moments and meditations (like that involving Jordan Chan's character and his cardboard fantasy which came in the form of Kelly Chan in policewoman garb, the mother's extremely matter-of-fact reaction to interrupting her son and daughter-in-law's attempts at making babies, or the interactions between the American grandchildren and the Filipino maid!) and fewer maudlin ones.  As it is, a strong cast (with Christine Ng -- as the sweet daughter-in-law -- and Teresa Carpio (like Alan Tam in being far better known as a singer from yesteryear than a contemporary thespian) -- as the difficult daughter -- surprisingly outshining the not untalented likes of Anita Yuen, Eric Tsang and Jordan Chan) was seriously wasted on endowing an otherwise weak work with some respectability.
Anita, Kelly Chan and Jordan
My rating for the film:  5.


DVD Information:

Distributor - Fitto Mobile

The transfer is excellent - good detail and colors are fine. 

Letterbox

No menu, no extras

Subs -English, Chinese burnt on