The Woman Behind (1995)
Directed by: Lam Yee-Hung
Wanting to start a business in the Mainland, Shui Kwai-San (Bobby Au) puts the life savings of him and his wife Feng Yi-Wan (Lily Chung) on the line. The gamble largely works and during his frequent trips, Kwai-San befriends local girl Shu Yi (Cheng Yim-Lai - Daughter Of Darkness II). Easy going friendship turns to physical attraction and the married man proves that his wife had the right to worry that he would be seduced. A choice with violent consequences...
Bobby Au and Lily Chung were paired up the year before in Fatal Encounter and and in director Lam Yee-Hung's O.C.T.B Case - The Floating Body (1995) . Effective and quite gory violence cemented a lasting memory for the latter venture and same could be applied to The Woman Behind here. However when interest only peaks very late in the story, via details that I will not relate, you've got yourself some backwards thinking going on here in this relationship-drama.
Looming is the portrayal of the horny male not being to resist temptations, although it doesn't come with the consequences of AIDS like in Fatal Encounter. The Mainland is still awfully dangerous and while Bobby Au's Kwai-San tries to remain focused as long as he can, physical attraction and need is what it is sometimes. Gaining a huge unsympathetic status therefore as he's betraying a marriage not at all in jeopardy (economy is however), the above is hardly revolutionary but are valid themes to examine. The emotional effects of distance and abandonment in other words, events started by one big dope of a character. Now if all this was effective before its ending, The Woman Behind could've escaped the verdict talking of a host of dull patches and distanced direction.
Because Lam Yee-Hung doesn't inspire the production or infuse one bit of sincerity into it. If at one point a stylistic decision was to put the camera far away in order to create the feel of documented reality, it's a choice that fails miserably because now instead the drama is static and therefore frustrates. Tilted angles during phone conversations are completely puzzling directorial thoughts as well. Lam Yee-Hung does have the talented Lily Chung to embody the inner distress of being this gravely betrayed but when given no direction, no wonder the acting goes into an overdrive that barely passes the standard of a soap opera melodrama. It can be argued Bobby Au is onto something with his awkward acting as his character is not really clued into the real effects of his choices but that's being way too kind as a critic.
Despite some unexpected turns in the narrative and an ending with a surprising amount of teeth, The Woman Behind resembles a lot of the murky looking, cheap and quick productions from this era of filmmaking aiming for harsher stuff via the Category III rating. Lam Yee-Hung does prove by the end that a harsh, tough to take and disturbing examination of betrayal and the emotions that goes along with it was in hiding but when flashing opportunities late, all that quickly becomes part of a miscalculation. Doubt these filmmakers were after much status or substance though but then why make a stale drama this subdued (i.e. boring) and with such a limited amount of nudity? That is miscalculating a market demand as well.
The DVD (Star Treasure Holdings):
Video: 1.77:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0.
Subtitles: Imbedded English, traditional Chinese.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson