I would like to start off by saying that watching Break Up Club at the Toronto International Film Festival was a very proud and special movie-going experience for me. Not only did I watch it with the good company of my friends, also that many things about the film can be felt at a universal level, but because I met the director Barbara Wong earlier this year. She enlightened me with much needed knowledge, stories, and advice regarding the Hong Kong film industry in contrast to the Hollywood or rather Western film industry. Now she is representing a new wave of worthy Hong Kong cinema in the internationally-acclaimed TIFF. Along with the evident number of Cantonese people in the theater, it was a very proud and noteworthy experience.
WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers to Barbara Wong’s Break Up Club!
Before the film was screened, Barbara Wong informed us that it was difficult to find investors to finance the film because they deemed the script was too complicated. This goes to show that many people in Hong Kong are not ready for this type of genre-merging and convention-breaking film. The narrative of the Break Up Club was in no way complicated in the eyes of TIFF nor the viewers in the theater. Normally I speak with a bias in these matters considering my background in film, but this film was relatable on many levels not only for me but for my fellow movie-goers. We have all experienced heartbreak and love, what is there not to get? Love is complicated, we already know that, and this film explains it better than most.
Continuing this fairly personal review, I felt that I especially related to Break Up Club due to its style and structure. The film blended characteristics of documentary, mockumentary, DIY video, all to illustrate the complexity of this love story. The film revolves around Joe (Jaycee Chan) and his journey to win back his lost love Flora (Fiona Sit) by utilizing a website called “breakupclub.asia” that requires the user to break up a couple he or she knows by typing their names into the website. This act sparks off a long series of events that challenges the foundation of Joe and Flora’s relationship. Through the use of a digital camcorder, Joe documents many special moments between him and Flora, some of which were heartwarming, while others were the opposite.
Reuniting after working together on 2 Young, Jaycee Chan and Fiona Sit have grown exponentially as actors. Under the direction and vision of Barbara Wong, I believe this was their best work yet, as actors and filmmakers. With the trend that began with Daniel Wu’s acclaimed Four Heavenly Kings, I hope the documentary/mockumentary style develops into a much more prominent genre in coming years of Hong Kong cinema. We could use a little more realism and a little less superficiality.
Next up, TIFF review on Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours!