Spacked Out

Miles away from the glittering stores and pulsing neon lit streets of Hong Kong lie the New Towns. Block after block of impersonal, monolithic, cement high rise public housing buildings that take in the over flow of people from Hong Kong like a dirty sponge. It has an infrastructure and social system that is collapsing from neglect and surrender and both social and parental authority seems to have long disappeared.
Bean Curd (Maggie Poon), Banana (Angela Au), Sissy (Christy Cheung)
Parents are as rare as a cool August breeze and a generation of children is growing up much too quickly with easy access and casual attitudes towards drugs, sex, abortions and petty criminal activities. Schools are primarily a holding pen for the kids during the daytime hours and have no relevance in their lives. Instead their lives play out in darkened, dank Karaoke rooms, tacky malls, video arcades and on the streets of the New Town.
Cookie (Debbie Tam), Banana and Sissy
This film takes place on these uncaring streets and it follows the lives of four teenage girls who have created a clique or more accurately a family of their own. It is only within this family unit that they feel loved, protected and wanted. Everyone outside of this circle is suspect – the families that don’t care and the “hit and run” boyfriends that come and go with no sense of responsibility. Director Lawrence Lau never hits us over the head though with these social ills. They are just there. This is how it is. Like the air we breathe, it’s part of the fabric of life and the girls just deal with it. They know no better.
The film is generally plotless in the sense that it has no beginning and no defined end – it is more a slice of life look at a few days in the lives of these girls and I found it extremely compelling. Within 10 minutes into the lives of these four girls I was completely absorbed and by the end I was completely moved. Lau gives the film and the girls a wonderful sense of humanity - and humor - and pathos. The girls (who are all played by non-actors) come across as so real and vivid and distinct – all needing to be tough in a tough world – but still just young girls underneath the façade. One gets the impression that Lau truly cared about them and the story that he tells.
The smallest and relatively most innocent of the crew is Cookie (Debbie Tam). She is also the heart of the film. Only thirteen years old and heartbroken by a mother who has deserted her, she drifts though life aimlessly with no goals and no sense of worth. She wins us over completely though in a scene in which she overhears another more ambitious student (Vanesia Chu) tell of her high qualifications to a teacher and Cookie can only think ruefully to herself “I’m President of the Nap Club”. She has just found out that she is pregnant by a guy who promised that it could never happen on the first time. He is not returning her calls.
Cookie and Vanesia Chu
Banana (Angela Au) spends her time in class seductively cooing on a Party Line and then bedding down boys in her small messy bedroom surrounded by girlhood memories and yesterdays toys. There is no guilt nor is there love – just a break from the monotony of life.
Sissy (Christy Cheung) and Bean-curd (Maggie Poon) are teenage lesbian lovers (though it is never clear if this is sexual) - and as different as night and day. Sissy is all girly and chats happily to her friends on her cell phone with one hand and shop lifts with the other hand while Bean-curd is a shaven head hard headed character – protective and jealous of Sissy at the same time – and taking no grief from anyone.

In these few days in which we follow their lives, the girls try and work out issues of identity, sexuality, responsibility, love, friendship, trust and their place in the world. These are the types of issues that many coming of age films tackle, but Lau does it with such an unromantic and yet tender and sympathetic view that it grabs a part of your heart and by the end these four girls will as well. One truly wishes them well on their journey through life.

I thought the film faltered a bit near the end with a jarring ugly dream like sequence that felt out of place with the rest of the film – but the gentle ending redeems the film – gives us all hope - and allows us and the director to wave goodbye to the girls as they go on with their lives.
Milkyway produced this film and though clearly it is very different from any of their previous efforts, it is as imaginative and creative as any of them are. In some ways in fact, more so. This is clearly one of the best HK films so far in the new millennium.

My rating for this film: 8.0

Three of the actresses and I assume Lawrence Lau


DVD Information:

Distributed by Mei Ah

The transfer is first rate and one of the best I have seen from Mei Ah.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

Removable subtitles with 3 choices:  Chinese (Traditional), English, Chinese (Simplified)

9 Chapters

Includes it's own trailer and the trailer for "Untouchable Maniac". The trailer has both the English and Chinese subs showing - explaining why some of the above pictures have both.