Review: ‘Time Still Turns the Pages,’ starring Lo Chun Yip, Sean Wong, Curtis Ho, Ronald Cheng, Rosa Maria Velasco, Sabrina Ng and Henick Chou

January 24, 2024

by Carla Hay

Lo Chun Yip in “Time Still Turns the Pages” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Time Still Turns the Pages”

Directed by Nick Cheuk

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Time Still Turns the Pages” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teacher at a high school finds out that one of his students has anonymous written a suicidal note, which prompts an investigation and triggers memories of his own unhappy childhood.

Culture Audience: “Time Still Turns the Pages” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching emotionally moving films about effects that depression and anxiety can have on people and the dangers of not properly treating these mental health issues.

Sean Wong and Curtis Ho in “Time Still Turns the Pages” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Time Still Turns the Pages” is a meaningful and well-acted drama about the effects of child abuse, as well as how loneliness, depression and anxiety are often mishandled or ignored. Without being too preachy, the movie has a message of being more aware and more compassionate of people who might be having these issues. Although the movie isn’t ultra-violent in showing the child abuse, some of these abuse scenes might be very disturbing to some viewers.

Written and directed by Nick Cheuk, “Time Still Turns the Pages” (which takes place in Hong Kong) begins by showing a 10-year-old boy jumping off of the roof of a high-rise building. Viewers later find out that the boy’s name is Eli Cheng (played by Sean Wong), and he is several flashback scenes that show what led him to get to this suicidal point. Did he survive or did he die? The movie answers that question.

Meanwhile, in the present day, at Lo Fuk Tong High School, a teacher named Mr. Cheng (played by Lo Chun Yip) is aware that some of his students are involved in bullying fights at the school. Near the beginning of the movie, a student named Vincent, nicknamed Van Gogh (played by Henick Chou), is shown getting reprimanded in the school principal’s office because he pushed another student down some stairs. Vincent has injuries on his face that indicate he was in a physical fight. Vincent is one of Mr. Cheng’s students.

The movie leaves it open to interpretation about who started the fight until a flashback scene later in the film reveals the full story. There are several examples of how “Time Still Turns the Pages” shows something that seems to be about one thing but reveals it’s actually about another thing. Writer/director Cheuk seamlessly weaves various timelines and story threads together in ways that are creative and poignant without being emotionally manipulative.

One day, Mr. Cheng finds out that a school janitor (played by Peter Lau) has discovered an unsigned suicidal note in Mr. Cheng’s classroom. The note was written by a student and says things such as “I am worth nothing to anyone” and “I could be easily forgotten.” Mr. Cheng is deeply affected by this note and wants to find out who wrote it.

During a meeting with other faculty and staff members about the note, there is some debate over how to find out who wrote the note. The general consensus is that it’s a delicate matter that should be handled with discretion. When the school’s social worker Halena (played by Luna Shaw) suggests that the note is a hoax that could be plagiarism from something off of the Internet, Mr. Cheng explodes with anger and says the note is not a hoax.

Eventually, it’s decided that the a trustworthy student will be enlisted by the school officials to help with the investigation. The chosen student is a class prefect named Bethany (played by Sabrina Ng), who is later revealed to have some past emotional issues of her own. The investigation weighs heavily on Mr. Cheng because he is afraid that one of his students could commit suicide before getting any professional help or counseling to prevent the suicide.

Mr. Cheng’s emotional outburst at the faculty meeting is because he has been triggered by his own memories of an unhappy childhood. The movie has various flashbacks to showing the Cheng family, which includes his abusive father Hung Cheng (played by Ronald Cheng), who is a successful attorney; Hung’s fearful wife Heidi Cheng (played by Rosa Maria Velasco), who is a homemaker; sensitive Eli Cheng; and his overachieving brother Alan Cheng (played by Curtis Ho), who is one or two years younger than Eli. These flashbacks show that Hung verbally, emotionally and physically abuses Eli and Heidi, while Alan is considered the “golden child” of the family.

Eli frequently gets punished for not getting the academic grades that his parents expect from him. And although his mother Heidi is also a victim of Hung’s abuse, she is occasionally abusive to Eli too. She sometimes says hateful insults to Eli or slaps him hard, so that she doesn’t get punished by Hung for being too “soft” on Eli. Heidi also inflicts this cruelty out of her own self-hatred and because she’s taking a lot of her anger out on Eli. Other times, she comforts Eli and is very loving to him. It’s a realistic portrayal of an abused parent who is trapped in a miserable marriage and is conflicted about how to handle it.

During Eli’s childhood, Alan seemed to keep an emotional distance from him, as if he didn’t want to be associated with his underachiever brother. Eli found comfort in reading comic books, an activity his father despised. Eli’s favorite comic book series was called “Pirate,” and he greatly admired. Eli eventually started a secret journal to write down his innermost thoughts. He also became emotionally attached to his piano teacher Miss Chan (played by Jessica Chan), a young woman who was the only adult who was consistently kind to Eli in his home.

Mr. Cheng’s flashbacks also show that he got married to a voice actress named Sherry (played by Hanna Chan), whom he met when they were teenagers. Sherry and Mr. Cheng dated other people but reconnected later in life, fell in love with each other, and got married. This marriage was negatively affected by Mr. Cheng’s unresolved issues from his childhood and his memories of his own parents’ bad marriage. Sherry and Mr. Cheng have moments that are happy and unhappy. A turning point in their marriage happens when it comes to a decision made about family planning in their relationship.

“Time Still Turns the Pages” will take viewers on a very emotional journey in finding out more about Mr. Cheng and what happened in his family, as well as how his childhood trauma affects him in his current life. The movie takes a necessary and empathetic look at how people who show signs of anxiety and depression are often misunderstood and punished, which makes their mental health issues worse. “Time Still Turns the Pages” will make a lasting impression on viewers to be more aware of warning signs in suicidal people and to reach out and help as much as possible.

Illume Films released “Time Still Turns the Pages” in select U.S. cinemas on January 19, 2024. The movie was released in Hong Kong on November 16, 2023.

Review: ‘Over My Dead Body’ (2023), starring Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam, Ronald Cheng, Jennifer Yu, Lau Kong, Bonnie Wong and Hanna Chan

May 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Alan Yeung Wai Lun, Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam and Jennifer Yu in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” (2023)

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Over My Dead Body” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Some residents and employees of a co-op apartment building try to hide the body of an unidentified naked man who was found in a hallway of the building.

Culture Audience: “Over My Dead Body” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a shallow “screwball” comedy that makes no sense.

Bonnie Wong and Lau Kong in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” is a comedy that’s as creatively inert as a corpse. This repetitive and frequently incoherent movie, which is about people trying to hide a body, is plagued by annoying plot holes, scatterbrained characters and a foolish ending. And with a total running time of two hours, “Over My Dead Body” is entirely too long for the movie’s flimsy story.

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin and Kong Ho-Yan, “Over My Dead Body” is about several residents and employees of a Hong Kong co-op apartment building trying to hide the body of an unidentified naked man in his 30s (played by Kenneth Cheung), who was found in a hallway of the building. There’s also a clumsy subplot about a young woman who doesn’t live in the building but is getting married. Don’t try to make any sense of what happens in this moronic film, which quickly grows tiresome with all the shrieking and yelling over what do to about this stranger’s body.

“Over My Dead Body” begins by showing the family members who end up discovering the body outside their apartment unit. The apartment building, located in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district, is an upscale, 25-floor building called Seaside Heights, which has 100 apartment units. Seaside Heights is marketed as evoking an “exquisite French lifestyle,” according to an ad shown in the movie.

There’s really nothing French about this apartment building. It’s just an excuse for the movie to have a bizarre fantasy sequence of many of the apartment building residents dressed in 18th century-styled French costumes, as if they’re about to have tea with Marie Antoinette. The movie has even more weirdness—and not in a good way.

There are five family members living in the apartment unit where the body is found outside the unit. Before this shocking discovery, tensions were already running high in the family. The apartment unit is owned by divorcée Meghan So (played by Teresa Mo), who is the household’s primary source of income.

Meghan shows a lot of resentment over having to carry most of the financial burden for everyone in the household. Also living in the household is Meghan’s daughter Yana Chung (played by Jennifer Yu), a flight attendant whose husband Ming To (played by Wong You Nam) is currently unemployed. Yana and Ming have an adorable daughter named Yoyo (played by Lau Ying Yu), who’s about 5 years old.

Meghan has another child named Kingston Chung (played by Alan Yeung Wai Lun, also known as Yeung Wai Lun), Yana’s goofy younger brother who is also unemployed. However, Meghan shows much more tolerance for Kingston than she does for Yana. Kingston says he will be able to make money when he launches his “brand.” The movie later reveals that Kingston wants to start a company called the Anti-Facial Social Club, which sells facial stickers designed to prevent facial recognition done by technology.

One of the early scenes in the movie shows Meghan clashing with Yana and Ming when the spouses talk about their desire to move out so they can have more space to raise Yoyo. Meghan warns the couple that it would be expensive for Yana and Ming to get their own place on the couple’s limited income. This leads to more complaining from Meghan about how she has to pay most of the living expenses in the household.

During this argument, someone happens to open the front door to the apartment unit. The arguing family members are shocked to see a naked man slumped on the hallway floor in front of the unit. No one in the family knows who he is and have never seen this stranger before.

When they determine that the man is dead, everyone except Meghan immediately wants to call for help. Kingston goes as far as dialing 999 (the emergency number in Hong Kong), but Meghan forces him to hang up before he can say what the problem is. Meghan yells at everyone that if the news got out that there was a naked dead man found in the building, then the building’s property value will decrease.

The rest of the movie shows various people finding out about the body and trying to hide it too. An elderly couple named Boron Chan (played by Lau Kong) and Betty Chan (played by Bonnie Wong), who are retired schoolteachers, are very superstitious. They want to hide the body because they think if they don’t hide the body, then people will think the building is haunted. Boron is also the treasurer for this co-op building.

A bachelorette named Mary Tse (played by Grace Wu) is described as a “young single mother” who is very protective of her baby, which she covers up in a carriage when she goes out in public. But surprise! It’s revealed early on in the movie that Mary’s “baby” is really a small dog. Dogs are not allowed in the building.

Meghan threatens to tell the building management that Mary has a dog, which is why Mary goes along with the plan to hide the body. Mary has a maid named Nancy (played by Valenzuela Lucy Navarette), who gets ensnared in the body-hiding conspiracy because Mary threatens to have Nancy deported back to Thailand if she doesn’t cooperate. “I’m from the Philippines,” Nancy tells Mary. This is what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in “Over My Dead Body.”

Other people who get involved in hiding the body are a taxi driver named Bear Cheung (played by Ronny Cheng), who lives in the building and has a strained relationship with his son Mesai Cheung (played by Edan Lui), who is in his early 20s. Bear and Mesai have lived together, ever since Bear’s wife/Edan’s mother (played by Xenia Chong, shown in flashbacks) left them and had a bitter divorce. Mesai blames Bear for the breakup of the marriage.

Mesai is a video game/computer enthusiast. Somehow, he has found a way to hack into the building’s video surveillance system. It becomes a subplot in the movie when the building’s security chief S.G. Lee (played by Jiro Lee) finds out about the body too. S.G. Lee brags that he knows who all the building residents are, but he does not know who the mysterious nude man is and how he got into the building.

As already revealed in the trailer for “Over My Dead Body,” some of the apartment dwellers end up in a jail cell, where they meet a bride-to-be named Sue Yu (played by Hanna Chan), who gets mixed up in this awful mess. And where is Yoyo during all of these silly antics? She’s conveniently kept out of sight for most of the movie, which only shows Yoyo for some “cute kid” moments.

“Over My Dead Body” is a stagnant cesspool of irritating characters shrieking, hollering, and doing things that never look believable. None of the acting in this movie is any good. The movie’s direction and film editing are often unfocused, jumping from one character to the next in clumsy ways. The sloppy screenplay leaves no room for character development.

The movie saved the worst parts for last. In the movie’s last 15 minutes, when it’s revealed who the mystery stranger is, “Over My Dead Body” takes an abrupt turn into phony sentimentality. The movie, which was already failing to be amusing, tried to be an edgy and irreverent satire about status-conscious people for most of the story. In the end, “Over My Dead Body” just turns into a huge, mushy plothole that insults viewers’ intelligence.

Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio released “Over My Dead Body” in select U.S. cinemas on May 19, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 24, 2023.

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