2 Become 1 (2006)

Directed by: Law Wing-Cheong
Written by: Fung Chi-Keung
Producer: Johnnie To
Starring: Miriam Yeung, Richie Ren, Victoria Wu, Jo Kuk, Louie Castro, Guo Tao, Liu Xiang-Jing, Fung Hak-On, Gordon Lam, Lily Li & Justin Lo

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2007:
Best New Director (Law Wing-Cheong)

Bingo (Miriam Yeung) has a promising career at an advertising agency jeopardized when she finds out she has breast cancer. Discovering this is slightly odd but well-meaning doctor Vincent (Richie Ren) who becomes a guiding light for the conflicted Bingo. She tries to keep a straight face through this ordeal, sliding past it quickly with the help of Chinese medicine but ultimately she must confront life at a different pace now...

There's not a constant habit of letting others outside of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai occupy the directing seat in a Milkyway produced film but the choice to do so have generated the likes of Beyond Hypothermia, Expect The Unexpected (with rumoured, unofficial To involvement), The Longest Nite (ditto), Gimme Gimme, Spacked Out and Sealed With A Kiss. The production house obviously has what it takes to mix up the genre work without resorting to full on mainstream cinema as well as being fearless of letting new filmmakers find a voice. Enter Law Wing-Cheong, having co-directed Running Out Of Time 2 as well as assisting and editing for Johnnie To for several years on the mentioned varied genre work (going all the way back to 1995's Loving You).

Taking on the serious subject of breast cancer, it's easy to assume that there is surely Wong Jing involvement behind the surface and that a socially relevant issue may get exploited in favour of cinema revenues. However star Miriam Yeung (fresh from her acclaimed turn in Fruit Chan's exquisite Dumplings) is reportedly a spokeswoman for breast cancer and sensitivity instead of political incorrectness surely will take center stage? Controversy arose outside of the filmmaker's beforehand unknown choices though as poster designs of a computer created bare chest of a woman was pulled from Hong Kong's subway system. Coincidentally the Mainland censors praised the artwork when it reached their market. Funny how that works and Hong Kong ultimately got stuck with the blank art featured above, firmly showing the reunion of Yeung and Ren though (latest vehicle for the both being Elixir Of Love). Aaaaaanyway....

By god it's difficult to be uncool towards a film that means well. Playing out like an ordered public service announcement, you have yourself a crowded character gallery stuck way into the sticky, hectic world of urban, high profile employment (and their own asses). No one really never slows down to smell the flowers or are feeling true empathy towards things. Wake up call time then, why not let it be breast cancer? Now, reevaluating, recycling and reexamining themes of how you cope with a sudden setback such as this is NEVER a bad thing and with a little skill, you can squeeze out the same content and still create affecting cinema. 2 Become 1 possesses that realization but it's buried underneath the quick fix the production eventually transforms into. The switch in moods is of course something Hong Kong cinema never really will abandon so we do get a taste of Miriam Yeung being back in her old shoes in the genre as well as performing drama in between. Also featured: a little loudmouthed comedy, a little line delivery in stereo by grating characters and a stereotypical gay supporting male character. Yep, it's still a typical time at the Hong Kong movies. Law Wing-Cheong makes sure 2 Become 1 equals plentiful already but obviously is going to take a left turn into more sincere territory. A tricky turn, that has to be said.

The slight success the film has eventually comes when at these serious points but wouldn't you know it if Miriam Yeung's journey comes off as handled very casually despite. Again, you won't develop hatred when being flashed before you an age old character journey such as this but as the turns are rather dark also, the methods employed by Law rings of a disinterest or a hindrance perhaps to really reach inside and grab (gently preferably). Strikes against him continues to be an awfully manipulative score, wacky supporting characters sometimes straight out of mou lei tau-land (and a few too many characters on the side anyway) but why does 2 Become 1 eventually reach some form of minor satisfaction? It's not due to some form of classic chemistry between the leads (fluff excursion Elixir Of Love was more effective in that regard) but Law showcases a straight on sincerity at later points in the film that makes Bingo's self-realization take shape into a real situation to respond to on a viewer level. A realization also having to do with Richie Ren's Vincent truly being a helping, divine hand. On a cast side note, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a brief appearance by Shaw Brother's veteran actress Lily Li, playing Bingo's mom.

Props goes out to the filmmakers for indeed handling the subject at hand with a lean touch and instead being more firm when highlighting people's stuck up, stuck in and all out evil behaviour. Unreasonable acts in the face of a life changing disease, that you find at center in 2 Become 1, realized with somewhat of a solid touch by Law Wing-Cheong and Milkyway. While this is a few notches different than the fluff the production house needed to put out once (Needing You chief among them), any intentions to differentiate from that output kind of failed. 2 Become 1 does however carry social value and will undoubtedly have an effect despite the bumpy ride along the way. Some should be satisfied then, the victims of cancer will be highlighted even more and critics will have to learn to swallow a partly dire pill to get to the actual minor right chords. Law Wing-Cheong probably shouldn't strive to be a director that delivers a 10 cent hamburger of a movie however.

The DVD:

Mega Star presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 approximately, with anamorphic enhancement. An expectedly sharp and suitably detailed print for a new film that is only let down by some print damage at points.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track features clear dialogue and decent expansion of the fronts whenever music kicks in. Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 options are also available.

The English subtitles are largely error free and easy to follow. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

A minor extras section is offered up but true to form, Mega Star at best includes only permanent Chinese subtitles. Such is the case for the Making of (10 minutes). Maybe some worthwhile discussion occurs in the otherwise standard program formula but I wouldn't know. A Guide To Breast Healthcare (9 minutes, 22 seconds) is hosted by Lydia Shum and certainly intends to provide good information. Hope that's the case. Sandra Ng also appears, which is no coincidence since her character in Juliet In Love also had breast cancer.

Two music videos comes next, one for the awful "You'll Shine Again" and a Chinese language track I'm unable to identify. Has there ever been more than one or two performance MV's made in Hong Kong? Yes, these are set to movie clips only and are automatically dead boring because of it. Deleted scene (5 minutes, 22 seconds) contains 7 cut/extended clips that largely seem redundant. More of Bingo anxiety about her cancer arises some interest but it's nothing that isn't already understood within confines of the feature.

Out-takes (1 minute, 25 seconds) shows actors flubbing lines. Wowza. The trailer has our only glimpse at an English translation on an extra and further promotional materials appear in the form of 3 TV Spots. Finishing the special features is the Cast & Credits section, holding dual language cast & crew listing.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson