Lover's Tears

Reviewed by YTSL

For those who continue to think that Hong Kong cinema consists almost entirely of cultish action flicks and exploitation efforts, this 1996 Lee Kwok Lap offering -- that Paul Fonoroff described as “a traditional tear jerker with a strong sense of traditional family values” in his “At the Hong Kong Movies” book of reviews (1998:557) -- may come as a shock to the system, should they ever check it out.  Since this high-minded David Chiang and Yang Yat Ming co-production is not an art-house type work (as well as the kind of film for which Hong Kong is (in)famous) though, the likelihood that they will come by a copy of it is very slim.  IMHO, this is probably for the best since I can’t imagine this dramatic effort -- whose fictitious tale is presumably intended to be an inspirational one (a la the fact-based “Forever and Ever” and “Time 4 Hope”), and disaster impending arc is effectively foretold upon its main man’s making the fate-tempting assertion that “I have to feed a family.  How can I have an accident?” -- holding all that much interest for other than fans of its male and female leads.

Although Derek Yee has first billing in LOVER’S TEARS, the veteran but still quite boyish looking actor-director-producer-cinematographer actually has much less time on screen than the younger and more inexperienced -- though not necessarily less capable or charismatic -- Carmen Lee (whose Lau Heung Ching character is a primary school teacher loved by two men as well as adored by her young charges).  Additionally, his character (an architect named Kam Ming-Sang, who comes across as a commendably good -- almost to the point of unbelievably saintly -- man) spends more than half of the film lying atop a hospital bed and in a coma.  Indeed, if not for her sizable role requiring that she be considerably de-glammed for much of it, this hardly low budget feeling offering would come across as the sort of effort that was designed to make its principal actress -- who appears to be one of a score of her generation’s promising young things to have somehow never managed to capture a sufficient number of Hong Kong movie goers’ hearts -- into a major star.
By this, I mean that the quite watchable Carmen Lee’s character looks to be the designated heart and soul of LOVER’S TEARS.  While Ching took the thoroughly admirable man she married, Ming-Sang, to be her rock and inspiration, viewers of this Ella Chan scripted effort are clearly meant to particularly respect as well as care most for the woman who is pregnant at the time that an unfortunate incident causes her husband -- and father of another two children (named Chi Wai and Chi Chung) -- to no longer be able to actively be by her side plus provide for his family.  And although some other adult characters also do fairly prominently figure in the story, for one reason or another, all of them end up not being there for their friend or daughter -- and Ming-Sang and her children -- as much as the film’s viewers, especially those who are familiar with tight knit Asian families, might expect them to be.
Perhaps the actions of Ching’s parents (who elect to visit their son in Canada at a time that I thought that they would want to stay close to their lost acting plus looking daughter) and her best friend (Pauline Suen plays Kam Hing, who announces her intentions to go off to the U.S. to marry someone) is meant to say quite a bit about the events of LOVER’S TEARS taking place -- like with the filming of the movie itself -- just a jittery year or so prior to the Handover of Hong Kong to (Mainland) China by Britain.  In this context, it’s rather interesting to see that the individual (named Lam Long and portrayed by Tok Chung Hwa) who blamed himself for Ming-Sang’s ending up in the bad condition that he did chose a harsh appearing part of “the Motherland” as the place to exile himself before returning to his home territory to help out a family that he found to be in quite a bit of need.
Why that little group’s situation gets as dire as it does is something (else) that this (re)viewer has to admit to not quite understanding.  While financial difficulties can be expected to ensue when a young family’s professional class main breadwinner becomes indisposed -- and in serious need of medical care -- for a significant period of time, Ching and her (step-)children’s descent from living in a mansion like residence to a one room shanty seems far too rapid to be all that believable.  So much is this so that, and at the risk of being labeled as someone with a heart of stone, the primary emotions that the unfortunately insufficiently involving LOVER’S TEARS ended up evoking in me actually were perplexity -- re the movie’s illogic (that I am wont to suspect occurred as a result of its makers’ trying to make the still too mundane work’s protagonist’s situation appear more dire than reality would have dictated that it be) -- and indifference (rather than sympathy or such like).

My rating for this film: 5.5