- RatedPG /GenreDrama
‘The Journey’ is the latest Malaysian-Chinese film that has been filling up cinema seats just across the Causeway. Following 2010's ‘Woohoo’ and 2011's ‘Great Day’, this is the third feature film of director Chiu Dao (full name Chiu Keng Guan).
The story revolves around a typical “uncle” living on the Cameron Highlands. On the eve of Chinese New Year, Uncle Chuan (Frankie Lee) attends a fellow villager's wedding and is disappointed in the way it is arranged, the lack of a grand banquet, in particular, being the most disconcerting to him.
After some playful nudging by his neighbours, he vows to hold a grand wedding banquet, with all his old classmates in attendance, should his daughter ever get married or, in his own words, be “struck by lightning”.
Of course, his daughter Bee (Joanne Yew) returns right then after a decade studying art in England. Arriving with her is her British musician fiance Benji (Australian stage actor Ben Adrew Pfeiffer). Comedy ensues that play on Benji's lack of knowledge about Chinese customs and traditions, and Chuan's inability to communicate with him, causing initial friction between the two parties.
Chuan finally gives his blessing to the two on condition that they prepare for and hold a traditional Chinese wedding according to his instructions. This leads Chuan and Benji on a journey through the different parts of Malaysia to find and invite his old friends to the bash.
Chiu and his regular screenwriting partner, Ryon Lee, display not just a very thorough understanding of many Chinese customs but also a delicate, light touch that manages to bring out the very best out of the movie’s jokes.
Things never get too slapstick or over-comical such as to undermine the poignant, emotional moments.
Cinematographer Eric Yeong does not waste the chance to photograph Malaysia at its finest during the men’s journey. Some of the shots are simply stunning... and will probably serve as the best commercial not commissioned by Malaysia’s tourism board.
There is also a sequence of handdrawn caricatures adding to the grade-A visual storytelling throughout the movie.
Despite its easygoing vibe, the movie thoroughly investigates the complex Asian parent-child relationship, an often-frosty dynamic that swings between warmth and disappointment. It is quite remarkable given that two actors portraying Chuan and Bee are untrained.
Combined with Chiu's direction, the stellar writing and acting, this movie is a crowd-pleaser, and it is not hard to see just why it has already broken records in its homeland.
Hop along for the ride.
‘The Journey’ opens in cinemas 20 March 2014