Release Date: May 17, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Pauline Chan
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 3/10
After nearly a decade of correspondences between her and her sponsor, a young orphaned Chinese girl seizes the opportunity to visit him when her choir is invited to Sydney, Australia for a concert. Her sponsor, Dean Randall, paints a pretty picture of Sydney life so idyllic that Mei Mei often daydreams about it. However as is often the case when things sound too good to be true it often is. When Mei Mei finally arrives in Sydney and discovers where Dean has been writing her from she begins a journey of discovery as she tries to understand the man whom she considers a father. Sounds like a sweet innocent drama, doesn’t it? Pretty good set up. Certainly leaves room for some comedic moments, you know “fish out of water” sort of stuff. Dysfunctional family drama, etc.etc.
This film is so schizophrenic in its execution, excessively sentimental, overtly melodramatic and so saccharinely that it could cause a diabetic coma. What is surely intended to be a “feel good” film changes gears and becomes a ridiculous and overwrought thriller wannabe. Needless to say this would have been so much better if it were just a straight forward human drama. It’s as though the writers didn’t have the confidence in the scenario that they had to cook up a whole plot involving illegal chop shops, prison thugs and a counselor with family problems. Really? What relevance did the whole counselor subplot have to do with the entire proceedings?
About the only person in this film that I believed in and saw doing any sort of genuine acting was Guy Pearce. You really feel for the guy and wonder how his life would have been if the annoying and presumptuous Chinese girl didn’t show up. Mei Mei as played by Zhu Lin just came off as stupid and annoying. Yes the girl is suppose to be naïve and innocent to the ways of the world but throughout you didn’t get the feeling that she had any concept or understood what was going on around her. She didn’t seem to mature at all. She was pretty much stuck in park. When she makes a decision in the end there’s no detection of remorse or hindsight regarding her choice. In the end you just want to give her a good slap and tell her go back to China and don’t return. The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable as all the characters are caricatures. The crime boss. The thug. The young boy. Yadda yadda yadda.
The script is full of one preposterous scenario after another. The heroine is rather unlikable to the point I wanted something bad to happen to her. Worst of all is the overextended, when the hell is this gonna end happy ending. It’s a shame they didn’t have the balls to go for the grittier ending. It wouldn’t have made the film better but at least they were trying. Instead we are left with all is well in the world. I think my blood sugar has skyrocketed. I’m quite stunned that this received high marks on the festival circuit. Apparently this is the first major co-production between China and Australia, I wouldn’t want to play that up. So in the end this feel good thriller was a complete misfire.