Young looks like a step down for Derek Yee. Last
year's Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Yee
eschews complex themes or clever narratives for this
rather generic youth drama. This isn't a tough motion
picture with difficult things to say. In fact, everything
about 2 Young is simple to the point of probable
annoyance. Yet despite that - or maybe even because
of it - 2 Young turns out to be an enjoyable
and surprisingly engrossing melodrama, and Yee's handling
has plenty to do with it. This is nowhere near the heights
of Lost in Time or One Nite in Mongkok,
but considering HK Cinema's alarming current state,
2 Young is probably one of the best two HK films
of the year - so far. It's hard to say if that's a good
or bad thing.
Action star progeny Jaycee
Fong is Fu, a poor kid who can't finish Form 4, and
spends his time playing football with his pals and doing
nothing of any import. Fu is attracted to rich princess
Nam (singer Fiona Sit in her screen debut), which looks
like a bad idea. Not only is she waaay up on the social
ladder than he is, but she attends a prestigious girls
school, and has not one, but two high-powered lawyers
as parents. Fu's parents are completely the opposite:
dad (Eric Tsang) is a minibus driver (shades of Lost
in Time), and mom (Teresa Mo) works at a restaurant.
The most recent Derek Yee produced and directed films
(Lost in Time, Crazy N' The City, Driving
Miss Wealthy) seem to share a common thread, i.e.
an affection for the working class guys and gals in
Hong Kong. Basically, it's hard not to like Fu or his
parents. Despite being not that smart, Fu is generally
a good kid, and his parents may be noisy and rude, but
in a lovable, familiar, if not too cartoonish way.
Meanwhile, life in Nam's household
is a minefield of propriety and expectations. Her dad
(Anthony Wong) is a media-famous barrister, while mom
(Candace Yu) has retired so she can follow dad everywhere.
Nam sometimes rebels at home, which catches her father's
ire. Nonetheless, she's disappointed at her lonely,
sad home life and materialistic, shallow girlfriends
(who are spoken of, but never seen), so going the full
distance to rebel is not out of the question. What that
means is she accepts Fu's awkward advances and the two
begin to date in blissful, rich-girl-meet-poor-boy style.
She's introduced to his life of cheap eats and public
football games, and before you know it, the young couple
has surpassed first, second, and third base. At the
same time, her father begins to get an inkling of her
dating habits, which is cause for him to get concerned.
Then Nam gets pregnant. Welcome to Hell.
Facing parental disapproval,
the kids have precious few choices. Abortion gets tabled
quickly, and soon the two choose to make it on their
own. Pals get them cheap digs out in the sticks, and
from there they basically play house, though with tougher
responsibilities and consequences than taking your toys
and going home. Fu needs to work, which leads to a variety
of realistic and surprisingly interesting problems.
Aside from learning to keep a job, Fu also has to contend
with stepping on triad toes, uncool bosses, and realizing
that maybe he and Nam have nothing really to talk about.
Nam has to deal with her new low-income home, which
actually is less of an issue than one would think. As
played by Fiona Sit, Nam is egregiously chipper about
exchanging high-class life for low-class living. Still,
the happy-go-lucky attitude Sit puts on gives way to
more realistic fears, and when she starts to voice her
doubts to her unborn child, the moment is felt. Derek
Yee basically lets Jaycee Fong and Fiona Sit act like
themselves for all 100 minutes of 2 Young, but
it works. They're genuinely likable and seemingly real,
and neither carries any movie star baggage with them.
It's good that Yee didn't cast Edison Chen and one of
the Twins; 2 Young could have been a nightmare.
But it isn't, and this
is largely due to Derek Yee and his choice of actors.
Yee gives 2 Young little overt artifice. Despite
the loaded storyline and scads of moments that seem
to echo an afterschool special, most of the interest
is found in the day-to-day struggles, relationships,
and the individual characters. The quartet of actors
playing the parents are exceptional; the performances
from Tsang, Mo, Wong, and Yu seem real and complete,
such that their individual characters manage to balance
out the eventual narrative necessities a film like this
has. Eventually, there are big moments, i.e. soapbox
speeches that are as alienating as they are unrealistic,
and 2 Young manages two in the final fifteen
minutes that are so jarring that they threaten to stop
the movie cold. One, in particular, involves a character
essentially shooting himself in the foot because it's
the right thing to do; while this may be true, it's
hardly realistic. But the performances work well enough
to cover such obviousness.
2 Young has a few
other problems. Some plot details are glossed over,
and in a film with this much personal detail, the lack
of certain explanations can be jarring. Also, the whole
feels rather light, which is odd because the film is
essentially about social problems and family dysfunction.
At the same time, 2 Young manages to be quietly
accomplished and involving, and manages a surprising
emotional hold on the viewer. Yee's work here isn't
truly noteworthy, but the solid storytelling and appreciable
humanity make 2 Young a decent, though minor
entry in the filmmaker's body of work. Oddly enough, 2 Young is surprising and welcome stuff. Yee
takes unexceptional subject matter and wrings something
genuinely engaging out of it, which in its own way is
cause for minor celebration. Plus, Fiona Sit is all
but guaranteed to earn a Best New Artist nomination
at next year's Hong Kong Film Awards, and Jaycee Fong
demonstrates that perhaps he didn't deserve the universal
criticism he got from Twins Effect 2. It seems
there are surprises everywhere. (Kozo 2005)