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The Stolen Years

The Stolen Years

Bai Baihe and Joseph Chang lose some years in The Stolen Years.

Chinese: 被偷走的那五年  
Year: 2013  
Director: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun
Producer: Andy Chen
Writer: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun, Silver Hau, Daryl To, Skipper Cheng
Cast: Bai Baihe, Joseph Chang, Ken Lin, Amber An, Queenie Tai, Tse Kwan-Ho, Christine Fan, Deng Ziyi
The Skinny: An OK weepie for two-thirds of its running time, The Stolen Years wears out its welcome when it goes into tearjerker overdrive. A pandering and ill-advised combination of melodrama and disaster film courtesy of Barbara Wong.
by Kozo:

Ultraviolent movies have fans, so can’t ultra-melodramatic movies have fans too? Probably, though a fanbase shouldn’t be an excuse for the obscene excess of tearjerker-times-ten-thousand The Stolen Years. Director Barbara Wong’s latest is a cliché-stuffed melodrama that chugs along in a routine-yet-agreeable manner before upsetting the applecart, jumping the shark, nuking the fridge and exhausting every last clichéd phrase for “going too far” that you can possibly think of. Mann (Bai Baihe) and Xie Yu (Joseph Chang) are so-in-love newlyweds who spar and snuggle delightfully, but some stupidity on a moped (They try to film themselves kissing while riding on a windy road at night – smart!) ends their bliss pretty quick. Mann wakes up in a hospital bed and can’t locate Xie Yu, and here’s the twist: The moped accident was actually five years ago and Mann is waking up from a different accident. Now suffering from amnesia, Mann can’t remember the five years between the two accidents, during which she and Xie Yu got a divorce. Mann, your years have just been stolen!

Naturally, Mann can’t understand what could have torn her and Xie Yu apart, so she seeks him out for help acclimating to her present life. Awkwardness gives way to kindness, renewed affection and then the big question, “Can’t we start over?” This formula is as predictable as it is innately affecting. Stolen Years mines typical melodrama clichés like amnesia, second chances and self-reflection, with Mann discovering that she was partially at fault for the crappiness of the past five years. A work promotion turned Mann into a haughty “Mistress of the Universe” type, leading to spiraling bad vibes and lost marriages and friendships. When attempting to explore the couple’s lost years, The Stolen Years makes for a more than passable tearjerker, and is buoyed by Bai Baihe’s skilled romcom persona and Joseph Chang’s believable sensitivity. Crying jag speeches and shoddy development (Xie Yu’s girlfriend, played by Amber An, is introduced then mostly forgotten) tarnish the mix, but for two-thirds of its running time, Stolen Years is acceptable tearjerker stuff.

Then IT ALL GOES TO HELL, multiple times. Barbara Wong loses all restraint and turns her film from a nominal tearjerker into some sort of disease-of-the-week disaster film. This is like Armageddon if deadly maladies are the asteroids and Bai Baihe is New York City. Wong decides to slam Mann with as many issues as possible, leading to waterworks from an audience that’s crying, laughing or maybe pissing themselves. One has to ask: What is Stolen Years about? It’s not about Mann’s lost years, because those are discovered and solved with minimum conflict. And it’s not about the changes that people face because Mann and Xie Yu show us that you apparently can go home again. One could read the tragedy overload as a karmic price for the couple messing up their first time around, but if that’s what she means, Barbara Wong neglects to tell us. Ultimately, The Stolen Years seems to be about tearjerking for the sake of tearjerking. Note to filmmakers: There is such a thing as too much jerking. (Kozo, 2/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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