Mother of a Different Kind

Reviewed by YTSL

For many Hong Kong movie fans, the man at the helm of this suspenseful offering is best known as ex-Shaw Brothers star David Chiang.  At some point in his career and life, however, the just as -- if not more -- famous half brother of Derek Yee and Paul Chun Pui apparently (also) went by the moniker of John Keung.  In any case, that’s how he is credited in Paul Fonoroff’s review of this unsettling crime drama that I’ve also seen being categorized as a horror work (See the often curmudgeonly critic’s “At the Hong Kong Movies: 600 Reviews from 1988 Till the Handover”, 1998:459).

Similarly, whereas some Hong Kong filmophiles -- notably those from my parents’ generation -- are apt to identify this 1995 effort’s leading actress as former child star Bobo Fung (AKA Fung Bobo), the now middle aged woman who has the titular role in MOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND may well be more readily recognized by younger viewers as the Petrina Fung who looks to have gone on to become the choice of more than one director to portrayal the key female parental figure in their movies.  For the record, one of the pair of HKFA Best Supporting Actress awards that she -- who also has the distinction of being a god-daughter of former screen-goddess, Linda Lin Dai -- won in the 1990s came by way of the part she played as Anita Yuen’s character’s mother in the acclaimed Derek Yee helmed weepie, “C’est la Vie, Mon Cheri”.
Other melodramatic offerings from the past decade and a half that have had Petrina Fung Bobo playing a caring mother include “Women’s Prison”, “Call Girl 1988” and “Girls Without Tomorrow” (the last of which I actually reckon to contain the best performance by her that I’ve seen thus far).  Should anyone start thinking otherwise however, here’s pointing out that this enduring entertainment industry personality also has, in this same latter period of her career, portrayed women who have not been primarily defined by way of their having children (e.g., in “Hong Kong Gigolo”).  Moreover, as she -- who also had a previous incarnation as a Shaw Brothers martial arts movie star (cf. the recently re-released by Celestial “Temple of the Red Lotus”) -- proceeded to demonstrate in MOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND as well as had previously shown to be the case with “92 Legendary La Rose Noire” (more than incidentally, the effort which had got this enduring performer her first HKFA Best Supporting Actress prize), another type of character that she has proven to be adept at portraying is one whose mental faculties aren’t all there.
Minutes into MOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND, it should be fairly apparent that “certifiable loon” -- as opposed to loving parent -- would be the most apt of descriptive phrases to apply to Petrina Fung’s Nurse Lam Sau Mei character.  Granted that, by itself, her use of a scalpel to cut up fruit might be downplayed as one forgivable eccentricity on the part of a long time medical worker.  Were it to be viewed in isolation too, some kind of excuse also might be found for this single parent’s not hesitating to rain blows on her near adult son when she felt that he had done something stupid or otherwise wrong.  Alternatively, the course of action that the individual who dominates this John Chan scripted film’s proceedings decides to pursue after her only child was killed by a police officer -- who could justifiably argue that he fired his pistol at her beloved Man “Chai” in self-defense as well as the line of duty -- can’t do anything but place the distraught woman squarely into the category of “vengeful psychopath”.
Put fairly succinctly: It’s not just that Nurse Lam gets all hell bent on exacting revenge on the unfortunate man but that she sought to do this by snuffing out the lives of all those who are near and dear to him (including his aged grandmother -- who is precisely the sort of individual that you wouldn’t want to see dying of anything other than natural causes! -- as well as new wife).  Despite Superintendent Cheung Hung at least initially looking like he ought to be able to protect others as well as himself from this MOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND (and this not least because the plain-clothes policeman happens to come in the form of Lau Ching Wan), this soon gets generally proven to be far from the case.  And ditto with regards to two subordinate officers named Mabel and Shun (played by Annabelle Lau and Michael Tong respectively) who had appeared to be honorary family members as well as good friends of his.
Although she seemed to threaten for a while there to be another female who it would prove to be a curse rather than blessing for Superintendent Cheung to become acquainted with, Veronica Yip’s Jo Jo turned out to be a friend in deed as well as in need.  In fact, as can be seen by her not deserting him even after he declared his intention to “be crazier” than Nurse Lam (in a drastic bid to outwit that deranged character), she -- who had looked for a time like she had been placed in MOTHER OF A DIFFERENT KIND to provide comic relief and add some exploitation elements to the Lam Ah Do lensed movie -- turned out to be more loyal to, plus trusting of, him than those of his law enforcing colleagues like Joe Cheung’s Officer Tam.

My rating for this film: 6.5