Focusing on child abduction in China, Dearest takes a compelling and important issue and stifles its impact with overwrought and unrestrained melodrama.
Blown Opportunities by Dave O’Flanagan
Dealing with the sensitive issue of child abduction in China, Peter Chan’s latest film is a painfully unrestrained exercise in melodrama. In taking an already weighty and compelling issue in and of itself, and smothering it in overwrought and overblown emotion, Chan’s film never feels natural or realistic. Where the opening of the film feels organic and natural, the sense of reality quickly dissipates when Tian Wen-jun (Huang Bo) and ex-wife Lu Xiao-juan’s (Hao Lei) son is abducted. This isn’t to say that there is a normative manner in which people deal with such events, it’s just that the combination of swelling piano based score and exaggerated-manic performances make everything feel overwhelming contrived and artificial. These over-the-top performances pull the audience out of the story, often resulting in inadvertent comedy. A scene which devolves into the main characters being chased across paddy fields by irate villagers with pitch forks is one of the more unintentionally hilarious instances of this. The film completely loses its focus and structure in the final overly-long third, making you wish Chan had turned down the intensity of an already intense enough issue.
Dearest is showing on Oct 12th, 13th & 14th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival