Whatever Will Be, Will Be (1995)
Directed by: Jacob Cheung
Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1996:
The St. Technine Primary School gets a new song- and dance teacher, Miss Lee (Kelly Chen) who is put in charge of getting the school choir ready for a prestigious competition. The task proves to be a difficult one as the students lack any real motivation and disillusionment grows even stronger when they end up last in the qualifying. With the gymnastics teacher Lam (Aaron Kwok), also known as Shrimp Man, supporting as best he can, new devotion in Miss Lee and the kids slowly but steadily begins to grow. She is committed to her own career as a dancer at the same time though, something that threatens to collide with her commitment to the school...
Cutesy stuff from Jacob Cheung (Cageman), his second feature for UFO productions and having recently watched Andy Chin's Victory myself, it's become even more apparent than ever that entire established genre structures can and will be lifted by Hong Kong filmmakers to make their own thing. Even though Whatever Will Be, Will Be is about choir competition, it really is the sports drama structure 1A utilized here. Jacob Cheung isn't stupid to fall into the trap of thoroughly replicating previously done movies though. Goals seemingly are to get the essentials right, provide a nice, family friendly atmosphere and even inject a little (with emphasis on little) character weight so the effort can reach bearable. A mission that Cheung have no problem accomplishing.
It's really easy to look down upon this James Yuen and Aubrey Lam scripted automatic machine of a movie because every minute comes something expected and recognizable. Establishing the choir kids as undisciplined, rude and low on morale brings up the expected thoughts of the unevitable turnaround regarding all those facets later on in the film (usually accompanied by a montage at some point). Right on cue, much of this takes place within Cheung's narrative but there's a crucial turnaround that makes Whatever Will Be, Will Be take on an aura that you would expect from a seasoned character drama director like Cheung.
The kids are really loud, unsympathetic and cruel towards their environment and each other but a crucial dinner scene truly reveals that they are outcasts. Screenwriters Yuen and Lam makes the very true point about getting acceptance at this young age clearly means that you have to adopt cruel behaviour into your life, otherwise you basically have to eat outside the cafeteria. While the kids do realize that behaving towards adults makes them happy, there is a smart sense about them that the adult world easily can disappoint you, so what really is the point of being a good kid? Outside of this, the always patriotic themes about the need of uniting and the need to look at what really matters crop up. I truly do believe that Jacob Cheung, while making nothing close to gems like Cageman or Beyond The Sunset was an ideal choice to make sure Whatever Will Be, Will Be didn't reek.
Despite all these messages and morals are shoved down the viewer's throats and firmly planted so we absolutely don't miss them, it's assuring that Cheung never makes it intrusive and goes enough inspiring places. Secondly, his venture into concentrating on a select few friendships amongst the children gets reasonable care from the viewer, despite everything being far from subtle. It's not winning in a minor way as such but it's bearable when it probably shouldn't have been.
Then there's the adult actors/pop stars Kelly Chen (in her movie debut) and Aaron Kwok who gets awarded the requisite romance and it's really the same bearable workings of Cheung's that crops up here. Slightly unexpected endings to Lee and Lam's arcs, as well as those for the goal of the kids, does add weight but nothing of that kind comes from Chen and Kwok. Instead, they're just a fairly likeable double act (especially Kwok) and in the simple framework that Whatever Will Be, Will Be is, that's sufficient. Richard Ng (sans moustache) also appear.
Enthusiasts of Cageman and The Kid are clearly going to be disappointed and probably feel a little offended that something as lightweight and harmless as Whatever Will Be, Will Be has Jacob Cheung's name on it. I disagree. He is in fact a very suitable choice to bring James Yuen and Aubrey Lam's sincere but familiar structured script to the screen. Much of what's featured should've sunk like a ship but due to enough commitment to make staple aspects work for the moment, Whatever Will Be, Will Be goes places of genre acceptance.
Widesight presents the film in a 1.75:1 aspect ratio approximately. Most likely sourced from the laserdisc, the transfer has digital noise, general murkiness plus lack of detail and sharpness that a dvd should offer. With reasonable colours and a clean print, the very minute investment it takes makes this an acceptable viewing choice however.
The Cantonese synch sound audio (featuring slight usage of English and Mandarin as well) is identified as Dolby Digital 5.1 but no activity outside of the center can be detected. The audio does come off as clear however. A Mandarin dub, also identified as 5.1 is also available.
The imbedded English/Chinese cinema subtitles are of good quality and only two brief occasions of the white on white syndrome occurs. There are no extras, aside from Widesight's usual Introduction text screen in Chinese that probably holds the plot synopsis.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson