What a Small World



Reviewed by YTSL

This 1989 offering from director-scriptwriter Jaime Luk (who also puts in an on-screen appearance as the piece's main villain's heavy) started off promisingly as well as cheerily enough with some amusing scenes of the seemingly blissful domestic situation of Rosamund Kwan and Lawrence Ng's married characters.  Matters get less happy but remain acceptable when the couple -- who go by the names of Michelle and Franco Wong -- are shown at their shared place of work.  However, when plans were divulged for their going on a Parisian holiday, my heart began to sink (and not just because the news of such brought about a quarrel between the previously happy looking pair of lovebirds).  This is because my (previous) Hong Kong movie viewing experience has generally taught me to be wary of films in which the protagonists go gallivanting outside of East Asia.

Rosamund Kwan, Ray Lui and Lawrence Ng
The following are some of the things that happen when this occurs, and definitely are faults that grate with regards to WHAT A SMALL WORLD:  Parts of the movie seem to have little purpose other than to be an "I was (t)here" touristic documentation for those of the movie's makers and stars who went on the foreign trip and for the cinematographer -- Jingle Ma, in this case -- to have a field day filming a host of famous scenic sights.  Despite their supposedly being long term residents (or even native born denizens) of environs where they constitute a cultural minority, many of the production's ethnic Chinese characters don't act and sound any different from Hong Kongers (presumably in large part because they are played by Hong Kong actors imported for the occasion.  E.g., Alex Fong has a supporting role in this effort as a London-based detective inspector).  The possibility is equally high that all the non-Hong Kongers who one sees on screen -- including those with speaking parts -- are less professional actors than people who were plucked off the street to appear in the consequently amateurish as well as shoddy feeling work.  Last but not least, coincidental occurrences are needed to abound in earnest to connect the film's protagonists and move its thin and flimsy plot along.
Rosamund, Ng, Nina Li and Jaime Luk
The great bulk of WHAT A SMALL WORLD takes place in Paris and London.  The latter is where the justifiably miffed Michelle ended up heading in a huff to -- after Franco got upset with her for trying to spring a surprise trip on him (which he mistakenly thought would scupper his efforts to rise to a position professionally commensurate to hers) -- and finds an old flame (Cheung Chi Hung comes in the form of Ray Lui).  The former is where her husband went in pursuit of her but runs instead into a childhood friend of his (Nina Lee is portrayed by Nina Li Chi).  Yes indeed re the world appearing to be very small, at least in movies such as this.  And it is entirely in keeping with this line of reasoning that a fifth figure in the movie turns out to also have an integrating as well as integral part to play in the lives of at least two of the film's main quartet of individuals who end up getting acquainted with those they previously weren't familiar by way of what amounts to a comedy of piled on errors.
As luck would additionally have it, Brother Hung happens to be the righteous -- he disapproves of drug dealing -- Triad head honcho of London's Chinatown as well a guy Michelle left because she felt he was too nice (to her).  As for Nina:  Besides being a model and designer clothing attired fashion plate, she also is under the patronage of a powerful and jealous Sugar Daddy.  In the class and type of movie that is WHAT A SMALL WORLD, the outcome is all too predictable with regards to what happens to them -- and those close by -- when their paths cross.
To put it mildly:  WHAT A SMALL WORLD is not particularly recommended viewing for those looking for intelligently conceived, expertly put together and sophisticatedly presented stories and works.  What makes that which is a hodgepodge of romantic, comic, dramatic and action bits just about palatable for me though was the fact of its starring actresses and actors who possess some modicum of charisma and/or are easy on the eye.  Although I have seen Rosamund Kwan and Ray Lui acting better and exhibiting greater screen presence elsewhere, Nina Li Chi really does shine in this effort and almost single-handedly saves the production.  In fact, I can see some fans of the curvaceous actress -- who primary role these days consists of being Mrs. Jet Li -- considering the movie to be worth a rental, and maybe even buying to keep, on the basis of one scene which has a tight T-shirt -- but not stabilizing bra -- wearing her very energetically wiping a window...

My rating for the film:  5.5


Reviewed by Brian

Ah, yes Nina Li. I have to stress even stronger than YTSL does that if you are a Nina Li fan, this is a must have. Jingle Ma may have his detractors as a director, but as a cinematographer this guy knows how to photograph women. Nina and her delicious rose petal mouth are a lovely sight at all times, but Ma brings it to full bloom (corny I know) in this film. Watching this film is like delicately paging through a Nina Li photo book. From the first glimpse of her in a large floppy hat at a Parisian café to the last of her impishly getting into trouble once again, she is a delight. Though she is surrounded by some fairly big names - Rosamund, Lawrence Ng and Ray Lui, she just up and steals this film right from under their noses and runs away with it. Two scenes in particular - the before mentioned "wiping the window followed by the hanging the picture scene" and one of her face going through a myriad expressions of pleasure (shall we say) should make you a Nina Li fan if you aren't already (well, guys that is).

Perhaps for that reason, I enjoyed this film a bit more than YTSL did. The plot was serviceable and sweet - and there is some nice chemistry between Ray and Nina. At any rate, whatever the reason - Rosamund's big eyes may have had something to do with it as well - I found this film fairly enjoyable if not particularly challenging.

My rating for this film: 6.5