Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday (1993)

Directed by: Samson Chiu
Written by: Lee Chi-Ngai
Producer: Peter Chan
Starring: John Tang, Eric Tsang, Petrina Fung, Shirley Lui, Ellen Lo, Wong Wai-Naam & Tse Wai-Kit

Buy the DVD at:

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1994:
Best Screenplay (Lee Chi-Ngai)
Best New Performer (John Tang)

Although not produced under the wings at UFO that Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai very much headlined, Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday still fits the criteria of the typical UFO movie. Basically a Hong Kong feature version of the Fred Savage TV series The Wonder Years, Samson Chiu's affecting film handles the coming of age story concerning teenager Bo (John Tang), in mainly an 80s setting, with heart and care, creating yet another excellent showcase for his sadly unheralded status among director's in Hong Kong (1*).

A very sharp, witty and frank script by Lee Chi-Ngai (director of Lost And Found) is driven thoroughly home by Chiu, with largely quirky choices for the longest of time. There are connections made to political turbulence of the past but Lee's script cares more for those who didn't much concern themselves with that and created babies instead. THAT is the significant starting point for the character of Bo (who also narrates the film, running commentary style á la The Wonder Years) and it's really the issues of sex, sex, sex that the film treats initially.

Clever thing is that director Chiu treats it in daring but such frank ways that the audience to realize that it's integral to Bo's life at this point, being a clueless, horny teenager. He sports a wild imagination about wild stuff unheard of and the film takes the social commentary approach of "blaming" the various mediums available for the one track, empty mind of Bo's. But the recipe here is about coming of age after all and jam packed with content, Chiu extremely confidently goes through phase after character phase. Bo's askew view has to be straightened out, less selfishness needs to be employed, all while exploring facets of first love, first kiss, friendship gained, friendship lost and the respect you need to maintain towards your family unit.

While crowded, Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday amazingly enough manages to dish out important and valid life lessons for each and every obstacle on Bo's path. Chiu suitably uses very little cloying after school special sentiments but instead injects a natural sense of humanity into the characters. Even going back into quirky territories at times, Chiu stays true to the mish-mash of moods Hong Kong cinema can apply but carefully walks his kind of tightrope without a hitch. It's funny, honest and affecting in a well-honed, low-key way, aided much by the type of point and shoot cinematography Jingle Ma is such a master of.

Having veterans Eric Tsang and Petrina Fung alongside newcomer John Tang obviously helps but he still has to carry the film largely by himself. Being very much a performance based on reacting to what's being narrated, Tang's freshness on the scene helps immensely to achieve a realism to a character arc dumped in a cinematic landscape that feels cut out of a true Hong Kong reality.

As was evident in subsequent works such as What A Wonderful World, When I Fall In Love...With Both and Golden Chicken 2, Samson Chiu showcases his range beautifully in Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday, being adept at drama quite confidently. Be it infused with nostalgia or not, as is the case here. A typical UFO production not made at UFO, it treads familiar ground but manages to slide over the high bar in its exploration of a confused teenager taking his vital steps towards becoming a man. With quirky and sincere stances in Lee Chi-Ngai's written material, the film easily travels far for 90 minutes and reaches the destination of viewer's minds and hearts.

The DVD:

Megastar presents the film in an 1.78:1 framed aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. Fairly pale and grainy, wear is kept low and colours remain as attractive as can be as I believe Jingle Ma didn't consciously make them eye popping originally. A nice treat to have in 16:9 despite.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono presentation contains no obvious flaws throughout. A Mandarin 2.0 option is also available.

The English subtitles comes with several stumbles over spelling, grammar and timing but are understandable overall. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are the other options. The trailer is the only extra feature. Not only the film does an excellent job of incorporating The Bee Gee's "First Of May", it's put to fine use in this dialogue free trailer as well.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) A rather sparse but quality filmography includes What A Wonderful World, When I Fall In Love...With Both and the recent McDull, The Alumni.