Tuesday, June 28, 2016

NYAFF ’16: She Remembers, He Forgets

Remember how you were in high school, pretty, popular, and fascinated by aviation? At least that is how it was for Gigi Yu. The aviation part did not come to her naturally, but from hanging around with the leaders of the Aviation Club. Technically, it was the earnest egghead who really understood planes. She married the good looking one instead. Was that a mistake? Yu starts wondering exactly that when she takes a trip down memory lane in Adam Wong’s She Remembers, He Forgets (trailer here), starring this year’s Star Asia Award winner, Miriam Yeung, which screens during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.

Yu and her husband Pang Shing-wa work more than they communicate. However, when they were high school students in the early 1990s, anything seemed possible, even with the mounting uncertainty regarding the Hong Kong handover. Yu’s platonic aviation buddies Pang and So Bok-man are both hoped to take their relationship to the next level. Pang closed the sale on open house weekend, which most likely caused So’s sudden disappearance shortly thereafter.

Unfortunately, Yu is starting to suspect Pang turned into a cheating dog. As she revisits her alma mater for this year’s open house weekend (we’d probably call it homecoming), decidedly on her own, Yu gets flashes of memory suggesting that she’d missed some pretty important signs from So. Putting the pieces together, she becomes desperate to reconnect with the torch-carrying rocket-launcher.

Okay, we can all probably admit SRHF is about twenty minutes too long. Any romantic dramedy should be able to wrap things up in under twenty minutes. That said, Wong uses the split time frame with lethal effectiveness. Granted, he is not playing fair, constantly revealing previously withheld information with each successive flashback. Still, few mortals can withstand the sheer power of the nostalgia he unleashes. Even if you weren’t launching bottle rockets with the cutest girl in school (and at least one other dude and the crusty old janitor), SRHF will make you feel like you did.

Yeung is undeniably a big star and she is impressive as the adult Yu. It is a sensitive turn, but also refreshingly mature and grounded. This is a woman who is experiencing a lot of disappointments, but still gets up for work each morning. However, newcomer Cecilia So just walks away with the film as teenage Yu. Her finely wrought chemistry with Ng Siu-hin’s So Bok-man also pays huge emotional dividends. If NYAFF patrons aren’t completely cried out from If Cats Disappeared from the World, this might just finish them off.

The pre-handover setting heightens the bittersweet vibe even further and gives the film a vivid sense of time and place. It is definitely a romantic tragedy, but it is the sort of weeper that makes you feel better when it concludes. Recommended for fans of Yeung and happy-sad love stories, She Remembers, He Forgets screens tomorrow night (6/29) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.