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: ‘Say I Do to Me,’ starring Sabrina Ng, Chan Kin-Long, Candy Lo, Mixon Wong, Yat Ning Chan and Jacky Tong Hoo-lin

April 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

“Say I Do to Me”

Directed by Kiwi Chow

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Say I Do to Me” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A social media personality, who has crafted an image of being happily single, decides to stage a public wedding where she will marry herself, while she hides the fact that she has a boyfriend, who is jealous and insecure about her admirers who want to date her.

Culture Audience: “Say I Do to Me” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a romantic comedy that goes off in different directions with many fake-looking scenes.

Chan Kin-Long and Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

The comedy misfire “Say I Do to Me” ruins an interesting concept (a social media personality wants to marry herself in a public ceremony) with too many awkwardly staged scenarios and horrible dialogue. It’s trying to be cute but it’s all very annoying. The wedding ceremony is supposed to be the big climax to the movie. After all the buildup, the last 20 minutes of the film, which were supposed to be the best section of the film, is actually the worst. It’s just a mess that drags on for far too long.

Directed by Kiwi Chow, “Say I Do to Me” has several subplots that never really gel in a cohesive way. The story jumps from subplot to subplot, bringing up many questions that the movie never bothers to answer. It doesn’t help that the protagonist of “Say I Do to Me” is very flaky and not very interesting. And almost all of the characters are written and portrayed in such superficial and hollow ways, they seem more like caricatures than relatable people. “Say I Do to Me” director Chow co-wrote the movie’s disjointed screenplay with Frankie Wang-Kit Chung and Isis Tso Yin-Sin.

In “Say I Do to Me” (which takes place in Hong Kong), Ping Cheung (played by Sabrina Ng) is a semi-successful social media personality who is mainly on YouTube and Instagram. Ping, who is in her early 20s, has about 1 million followers on Instagram, but throughout the movie, it’s shown that Pink has hasn’t had much luck getting sponsors. In other words, she has a large audience but hasn’t found a way to make money from the social media platforms that she uses. And in this day and age, 1 million followers on Instagram, although commendable, is still a low number for someone who expects to get rich from social media.

Ping has made a name for herself by creating a media platform brand called Sologamy. The concept for Sologamy is to celebrate self-love and to be unapologetically single in a society that pressures people to get married or be in a committed romantic relationship. Publicly, Ping has an image of being a happily single and not currently dating anyone.

Privately, Ping has been dating Dickson (played by Chan Kin-Long), who is her live-in boyfriend. Ping and Dickson have known each other since they were in middle school. Dickson handles all the technical aspects of Ping’s social media accounts.

Even though Ping and Dickson are a “couple,” the movie oddly never shows Ping and Dickson having any romantic moments together throughout the story. It’s one of many things about “Say I Do to Me” that make it look like a phony and not well-made. In various parts of the movie, Dickson gets jealous when a few of Ping’s admirers start courting her. She has to pretend that she’s available, which infuriates Dickson even more.

The subplots involve the various entanglements that Ping has with people who are in and out of the movie in scenes that don’t flow well together. (In other words, the film editing is pretty bad.) Ping does some voiceover narration explaining who these people are, but some of these characters are still introduced in ways that might confuse some viewers.

Stephanie Cheung (played by Yat Ning Chan) is a rich and famous relative of Ping’s. Stephanie is 39 years old. And she calls herself Ping’s older sister. But surprise! Somehow, someone in Ping’s audience found out that Stephanie is really Ping’s mother. Ping then has to make an apologetic confession video to her audience.

The movie never gives an adequate explanation for why Stephanie insists on Ping acting like Stephanie like a sister instead of a mother. It’s also never explained how long Stephanie and Ping were lying about the true nature of ther family relationship. It’s implied that Stephanie has some mental health issues and is emotionally immature.

Stephanie treats marriage and divorce like redecorating. She’s been married and divorced six times. Stephanie also overshares too many details about her love life with Ping, which is one of the reasons Ping has tried to distance herself from Stephanie. Stephanie’s cavalier attitude toward marriage has also made Ping wary of getting married.

One day, Ping gets a promising invitation to meet with a potential sponsor. He’s a successful and handsome 30-year-old businessman named Charles Ko (played by Mixon Wong), who invites Ping to his office for an interview. It soon becomes obvious that Charles is romantically attracted to Ping. The problem is that Charles is dating one of his employees named Kitty (played by J. Lou), who is very jealous. Kitty is barely in the movie, and when she is, her scenes look very forced and clumsy.

Tsz “Daniel” Chun (played by Jacky Tong Hoo-lin) is a platonic friend of Ping’s but he is romantically attracted to her too. Daniel is nerdy and timid. He’s also a very religious Christian. Ping is a Christian too, but she’s not as devoted to praying and going to church as Daniel is. Ping employs Daniel to do part-time work for her, such as giving her car rides and doing errands. He eagerly accepts any offer to spend time with her.

Another admirer who wants to get close to Ping is Yi “Yee” Lok (played by Candy Lo), who owns a flower shop called Mona Lisa. Yee is a stranger who is an avid follower of Ping on social media. Yee and her devoted husband Kenneth (played by Gregory Wong) have been married for 20 years. Yee contacts Ping to meet her in person because Yee says she might want to sponsor Ping and possibly become her friend. Yee also has a big secret that she eventually confesses to Ping.

Speaking of friends, Ping is never shown having any close platonic friends besides Daniel. The movie never explains if Ping was always a loner type or if her social media obsession negatively affected her ability to make friends in the real world. “Say I Do to Me” has no character development for Ping. This very unfunny movie is just a series of poorly edited scenes that are filmed like scenes from a substandard sitcom.

Ping’s self-wedding day is supposed to be a major event for her, but she’s hardly seen planning it for most of the movie until a few hastily crammed-together scenes toward the end of the film. “Say I Do to Me” also goes off on a mishandled, weird tangent about Internet haters harassing Ping in person: These agitators are disguised as stuffed animals. And because Ping and Dickson do not have convincing romantic chemistry with each other, the stakes are non-existent in the Ping/Dickson relationship when Ping gets romantic attention from other people.

“Say I Do to Me” is the type of overstuffed film that tries to do too many things but ends up not saying or doing anything substantial. It could have been a hilarious story about the pitfalls of inventing a fake persona online, but the comedy and characters are completely bungled in this movie. The acting performances range from bland to barely watchable. Ironically, for a movie about someone who’s created a fake persona online, “Say I Do to Me” doesn’t look believable at all.

Edko Films Ltd. released “Say I Do to Me” in select U.S. cinemas on April 21, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on January 26, 2023.
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