Movie Review: Far Far Away (緣路山旮旯)

In our news a few days ago came word that the gender imbalance in Hong Kong has only widened in recent years. I know what you’re thinking. We have too many men here. No, that’s in China where female infanticide and selective abortion was a thing for many decades (and probably still is), resulting in more males than females across all age groups according to a 2022 report by Statista. Even in the youngest age group, there are almost 111 boys to 100 girls indicating that something unnatural is still afoot. But here in Hong Kong, the opposite is true. Latest government data shows that we have 91 men for every 100 women across all age groups – 1.5 fewer than in 2016. Unfortunately, our government hasn’t offered a clear explanation for the disparity, only noting that many Hong Kong men are marrying mainland women. Ah, cross-border shopping.

It might have been this demographic trend that prompted local director Amos Why/黃浩然 (NAPPING KID/逆向誘拐) to make FAR FAR AWAY. The story revolves around Hau (Kaki Sham/岑珈其), a nerdy developer for an IT company that has come up with a dating app that combines a GPS-enabled map, restaurant reviews, self-guided tours, texting and I suppose dating though I never quite figured out how that last feature worked. Though he’s only ever had one girlfriend in his life and I’m guessing it was a platonic relationship they had, Hau suddenly finds himself the object of interest from five women including his unnamed co-worker (played by Cecilia So/蘇麗珊), desperate bride and wannabe mother Fleur (Crystal Cheung/張紋嘉), high school unattainable crush Lisa (Hanna Chan/陳漢娜), pushy Mena (Rachel Leung/梁雍婷) and university friend Melanie (Jennifer Yu/余香凝). Balancing five relationships at the same time is hard enough but these women all live in the remotest parts of Hong Kong. I’m talking Sha Tau Kok, Mui Tze Lam, Tai O, Sea Ranch and Ha Pak Nai. In the course of a year, Hau drives all over the territory trying to find the one that’s right for him.

FAR FAR AWAY has an interesting premise but what could have been a Cantonese take on the 1965 comedy BOEING, BOEING (google it, kids) where Hau has to juggle the demands of dating five women at the same time, it instead ends up being a love letter to Hong Kong as the audience watches Hau visit places that most locals have never been to. I have to admit that some of them look interesting and it wouldn’t surprise me if this film results in a surge of visitors to these places on weekends. That’s probably why local tour company, Walk in Hong Kong, backed this project. But even with cutesy text bubbles and route maps popping up all over the screen, FAR FAR AWAY is a complete slog as Hau is as exciting as a bowl of five-day-old congee. Perhaps it’s his definition of what being in a relationship is. Maybe it’s a Hong Kong thing but driving a colleague home after work, even if she lives over an hour away, does not constitute being in a relationship with her. To be fair, it’s not all Hau’s fault though. Some of his so-called “girlfriends” are just as bland. For some reason, the two that have any interesting qualities – the work colleague and the artist who lives in Mui Tze Lam – are jettisoned in favour of one who will no doubt lose her melt-in-your-mouth sweetness once he puts a ring on her finger, provided he can learn how to kiss her properly first. Or maybe that won’t matter as long as he continues to earn a good living, which he probably does as a software developer. Call me cynical.

The film premiered last November as the closing film at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival and has been on the festival circuit since then, playing in Osaka, Singapore, Udine and New York. It’s now opening commercially here today (August 4th). Unless you’re a hopeless romantic and you know Hong Kong like the back of your hand, you can safely give this one a miss.

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