I Am Sorry (1989)
Directed by: Tony Au
Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1990:
Carole (Carina Lau) along with her girlfriends, the Gang Of Four, is on the surface content with having an affair with a married man (Kenneth Tsang) but only drawback is that he's not going all the way to showcase her for the public. She meets and gets acquainted with her new neighbor Sheng Wen-Yueh (Pat Ha) who's anything but the kept woman Carole is perceived as. The one she meets that stirs up a whirlwind of questions and decisions about the men in her life is the timid Edgar (Lawrence Ng) but he himself knows not if he wants to pursue Carole or be devoted to Alice (Rosamund Kwan) who deceives him more than just often...
Teaming up with Carina Lau again after Profile Of Pleasure, Tony Au takes on another romance of modern and seemingly simple proportions, leaving most of the dazzling images of Dream Lovers inside his box of tricks. With Rouge co-writer Yau Daai On Ping on board and a cast of actors and actresses of note, I Am Sorry (aka Her Beautiful Life Lies) has much going for it. Patience is required to find out what Yau and director Au wants but well before the 90 minutes are over, it's evident that they miss their marks quite a bit.
Carina Lau's character Carole is one that needs to find a footing in her life and love life, which is a problem the film faces as well and you would hope that they would find that solution together but oddly enough, it never happens. That patience in getting to know the very multi-faceted (but not so much in a good way) Carole isn't paid off in rewards to say the least. Yau Daai On Ping gives Carole a sexiness, outspoken and irrational behaviour in her quest to find out if she wants love as a mistress having to live outside of life's spotlight or pure, deep love where no further connections exist to other men or women.
Au hooks us, if only slightly, since that written arc holds opportunities for I Am Sorry to take on a mature and complex aura but frankly, despite a fine presence in Carina Lau, the proceedings are borderlining on dull and frustrating because Carole has so many irrational tangents that never proves to engage. The narrative is also disjointed in the way it tries the develop the predicaments and choices Carole and Edgar go through. While there are flashes of good drama and good old fashioned, simple romance, much isn't worth caring for and it's sad to see a filmmaker that despite having done uneven films, failing miserably. He for instance has an opportunity to make Pat Ha (in her last feature film appearance before a brief comeback recently in Princess-D) a great symbol for Carole to try and make perfect and clear decisions but she is introduced only to gradually become a lifeless puppet for the narrative, which is one of the biggest shames of the film. There's also the crucial Gang Of Four (that also contains May Lo and Elaine Kam), all choosing the mistress or concubine way but their portrayed bonding is so slight and empty that they could've easily been ejected from the narrative without Au improving or lessening the impact of the film.
One that does good work is cinematographer Christopher Doyle though. Tony Au doesn't set out to provide atmosphere like in Dream Lovers but he balances the straight forward look well with giving Doyle some well-chosen moments to showcase Carina Lau's definite cinematic beauty and the various tracking shots and lighting gives the film at times a welcome elegant look.
If you've gone through past and subsequent movies of Tony Au's, you do notice he's slipping at times but always gives us something worthy of note. In the case of I Am Sorry, we find a decent act in Carina Lau, Christopher Doyle's cinematography commands respect and Au's ability to portray romance in a good old simple way shines slightly. But those moments are rare and Tony Au seems more confused than anything as he tries to weave a complex look at women trying to stay true to one man and one man only. He musters up some sparks but on the whole, this is weak work.
Deltamac presents the film in a 1.82:1 framed aspect ratio approximately. Print has moderate damage but is only mildly watchable due to a darkness and murkiness that tends to plague the transfer.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese (with slight usage of Mandarin and English) track sounds a little distorted on occasions but is clear sounding otherwise. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.
The English subtitles presents some shaky grammar from time to time but on the whole offers up an understandable translation. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. The trailer is the only extra.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson