Forever And Ever (2001)
Written & directed by: Raymond To
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Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2002:
Fu (Chris Lee) has lived with the disease hemophilia and a life filled with painful injections that has him borderlining on being crippled. But a positive life force exists within him and the devotion from his mother (Sylvia Chang) means his life can be appreciated. That is up till the point he finds out he's received transfusions of infected blood and is now diagnosed as HIV positive...
Starting with a true story scenario for his debut feature rather than yet another stage to screen adaptation together with Clifton Ko (I Have A Date With Spring), Forever And Ever does go the "terminal beauty" genre path a la C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri, Lost And Found and Funeral March but its choice is not so expected that we have to begin knocking efforts for wanting to be noble and valiant, which some certainly are...more than others. Forever And Ever has the greatest of ambitions and it's not so much that it appears cold as I like to favour the quieter/deserved outbursts of emotions but Raymond To is in over his head. While not an annoyance, the non-linear narrative and preachy nature of the flick hurts him.
Because early it seems like he's blown his wad emotionally, all before we realize what the tugging back and forth he's decided to perform on us on means. Mark Lee's cinematography does highlight a lot of white and as always Lee represents a dependent competence but I'll be damned if it doesn't neutralize a lot of the emotions apparently...apparent. But going back to noble, to focus on a human subject being a life force and a fuel for others is a sensible cinema-choice if you deal with it correctly. Most of the time, Raymond does, as he's created Fu as a logical guy in his drifting in and out of senses. Ranging from the kid not aware of his disease to the kid forced to take heavy medication and finally to the kid in young adult mode who's very much aware of his path, a slight cockiness but ultimately an inspiration is born out of his utmost lows. When there's no belief in God anymore, you believe in your fellow, sick man and the ones supporting you unquestionably. That support is the dedicated mom played by Sylvia Chang, who drifts similarly in and out of strength, high emotions and self-doubt, only to be picked up by the mentioned fuel Fu represents, especially when he begins writing under the pseudonym Chi Mo.
Cinematically, To chooses a distanced view on matters and structurally, there's nothing wrong with the challenge of letting the past, present and even future emotions blend as the non-linear narrative unfolds. But trouble appearing early that makes matters seem cold and even preachy (these humanistic messages even requires some flair to convey) frustrates as we're not quietly allowed to watch or feel Fu and his mother in a straightforward way regain their composure and look forward, with or without fatal diseases. There are signs of poetry in To's frame, especially the scene playing under the end credits that echoes the otherwise overdone religious angle in the flick. Overall, spiritually it does seem sound, except one very apparent scene of possible intervention or belief in intervention. That it's God's way's in action (or inaction as some characters probably argues) ruins, ruins and cracks open the flick and not because of beliefs as such, only the cheesy, cinematic manifestation of it. By jumping back and forth too, we rarely get a true feel for the hordes of friends Fu makes during this time as they're established one scene and the next doesn't fill in the gaps. The in between's don't work, nor does the piano score that thinks it's automatically emotional by announcing its presence.
While on board, even Raymond To's actors follow his direction to a T, meaning Sylvia Chang, Chris Lee and Josie Ho are ones in the long line of cinema examples where the trust in the director isn't fully worthwhile. You can be entirely humanistic and drive home your affirming message whatever film you do. In the case of Forever And Ever, it's not enough to think noble. You have to act effectively too. Therefore you should avoid cheesy montages at the end of your flick because you'll get the devotees of C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie, Lost And Found and even Funeral March to run for the hills back to those experiences instead. Guess what? We are!
Universe presents the film in aspect ratio of 1.77:1 approximately. Print is clean but not very uplifting in areas of sharpness, detail and colours.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.
Aside from some ropey errors here and there, the English subtitles read well and are coherent. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also provided.
Extras start with Star's Files for Sylvia Chang, Josie Ho and Clifton Ko. Borderline unintentionally hilarious at times, the actor's entries are still unusually meaty coming from Universe. A 19 minute, 34 second Making Of mixing subtitled movie clips and unsubbed interviews while adding a cheesy MV towards the end is a one-time watch for the likes of me. The trailer is also included.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson