Movie Review: Find Your Voice (熱血合唱團)

Hong Kong Cantopop music legend Andy Lau/劉德華 must have been planning to build an addition onto his house. That’s got to be the only sane reason why he would have attached his name to the super-sappy singing film, FIND YOUR VOICE, which was shot in 2017 but is only being released now.

In the (ahem!) movie, Lau plays Joseph Yim, a music conductor of apparent note. After his college choir, located somewhere in the US, fails to perform as well as everyone was expecting, Yim gets called back to Hong Kong by Headmaster Lo (musician and environmental activist Lowell Lo Kwun Ting/盧冠廷), the elderly but genial principal of a Band 3 school. (For those who aren’t familiar with the HK education system, the underachievers and undesirables go to the Band 3 schools.) Lo and the principals of a few other such schools agree to send 33 of their most difficult students to a fictional music academy where Yim is not only expected to whip them into shape, he’s given a mere nine months to get them ready to compete in the Intercollegiate Chorus Competition. Forget about whether these kids know a sharp from a flat or what syncopated rhythm means. There can be miracles if you believe.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a whole lot more than just miracles for you to believe this steaming pile of schmaltzy doggie do. If there is an encyclopaedia of clichés out there, director and co-writer Adrian Kwan/關信輝 (LITTLE BIG MASTER/五個小孩的校長) must have combed through it and taken the worst ones and used them here. FIND YOUR VOICE counts them down like America’s Top 40. First there’s the girl who cuts herself because she feels she’s not worthy until Yim tells her that she is. In terms of lightbulb moments, that one is a supernova. Then there’s the boy who solves his problems through violence thanks to behaviour he learned from his father who uses his mother as a punching bag. He wears a cast on his arm for the whole nine months except for one scene where the cast is curiously missing. In any case, Yim doles out some Yoda-like wisdom to him and he, too, sees that his future is so bright, he’s got to wear shades. Then there’s the girl who has nonverbal autism. Yim, who has no training in this area whatsoever, brings her out of her shell and, miracle of miracles, she has the singing voice of an angel. Each one of his students has something going on either inside their head or at home but Yim Sir knows all the right things to say and do at the right time. The OTT sentimentality and tears – lots of tears – are enough to put you into a diabetic shock. The pièce de resistance, though, is a plot revelation involving Yim coming late in the film that doesn’t even cause one person to blink. It is huge and in the real world it would be a deal killer.

The only good thing about this film is that it’s just 95 minutes long but, even then, I had to look at my watch twice. Interestingly, Yim, in a voiceover, says that if he’s lazy, the audience will notice. Too bad Kwan didn’t take his own words to heart here.

FIND YOUR VOICE opens in Hong Kong’s cinemas today (November 26). You have been warned!

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, November 27th, 8:30 am HK time!

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