Don’t cry after my death, love me while I am alive!

It was our favorite part of the day, this in-between time, and it always seemed to last longer than it should–a magic and lavender space unpinned from the hours around it, between worlds

Paula McLain

Lavender (2000)
Also known as
Fan Yi Cho
Art House, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Written by
 Riley Kam-Hung Yip
Directed by
Riley Yip Kam-Hung
Country of Origin
Hong Kong
Running time
111 minutes 

oh! … brief

Athena Chen, an aromatherapy teacher and owner of a scent shop, is mourning the loss of her boyfriend, Andrew. She is desperately depressed, longing for and missing Andrew, so much so that she purchases a helium balloon each day and attaches a message to it with the hope that it will somehow reach him.

One night, the mysterious Angel arrives, crashing into Athena’s balcony. He is injured. Athena allows him to stay with her while he heals but in return, he must help her. Athena’s life will be forever changed because of her encounter with Angel.

oh! … talks film

Those already following know I rarely read more than a synopsis of a drama or film before watching it, so I wasn’t expecting Lavender to have such an affecting screenplay.

Having experienced heavy loss of loved ones during my short lifetime, I could empathize with the character Athena. After my father’s passing the year I turned 13, I would sit each night and wait for his return, adamant that he would come back if I just waited patiently. I continued that way every night for about a year. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand that he was gone and would never come back, it was that I just wanted his death to be a lie. It was my coping mechanism, a way to ease into his loss. Seeing the character Athena go through her routine of buying a balloon, writing a message, eating her dinner and then releasing her balloon into the night sky brought back distant memories for me. Surviving the loss of a beloved person is such a personal experience that brings out individual and distinct behaviours or coping mechanisms.

Riley Yip Kam-Hung, writer and director of this screenplay, penned an interesting fantasy screenplay that explores death in a new approach and is all about letting go, including letting go of memories so that you can move forward. In addition, Riley Yip Kam-Hung uses incredible humour, wit, and an interesting angle to get his audience questioning the truth behind love and the difference between real love and desire. It’s very insightful and I’m not sure if that was his intent.

Riley Yip Kam-Hung doesn’t write his screenplay with all the meanings neatly interpreted, he leaves situations and scenes open-ended allowing the audience to put their own spin on things or interpret personal reactions, ideas or understanding. This different approach means individuals watching the film will react to it differently. No two people will come away feeling the same or share the exact same opinion. That is the mastery of a Riley Yip Kam-Hung’s screenplay.

I must admit though, I wondered several times at the meaning of the footwear and food imagery that is a repeated them throughout? What exactly was Riley Yip Kam-Hung wanting his audience to understand or ‘get’ from the imagery? Did they represent something somehow? I guess I’ll never know. But if you ever stumble across an explanation in anything you find, please come back, leave a comment and let me know!

Aesthetically speaking, Lavender is an Art House styled production. There are many nicely lit shots of the attractive actors and actresses looking attractive in a variety of settings. Kwan Pun-Leung did a great job with the cinematography. For example, the two leads get stuck taking in the sights from an elevated crane – it’s all very beautiful and pleasing to the eyes but the night sky over Hong Kong is especially breathtaking from that elevated vantage point. It reminds me a lot of City of Angels starring Nicholas Cage and Melanie Griffiths. Both stories might come off as more than a little cheesy but they’re very beautifully captured and sensual.

Riley Yip Kam-Hung pulls the production together with a strong cast – his male and female lead are well known and highly respected in the industry. Supported by a soundtrack by Ronald Ng Luk-Sing (which I can’t find anywhere online) and with Kwan Pun-Leung’s artistry with cameras, the acting is what completes the production.

Takeshi Kaneshiro, one of my favourite actors from Japan plays Angel and subsequently Angelo. This is perhaps the youngest I have seen Takeshi Kaneshiro. He is a consummate professional, takes his acting very seriously so I was surprised to see him take Angel on as a role. This genre of a film seems to be an odd choice for him and I wondered while watching if he wished he hadn’t taken on the tole? Takeshi Kaneshiro inhabited his role as Angel and gave a strong performance that brought more than a few smiles to my face. Takeshi Kaneshiro is talented when it comes to pulling off boyishly charming roles … think about his role in House of Flying Daggers.

Kelly Chen plays Athena Chen in Lavender. Kelly Chen brought out all her skills in acting to depict a depressed and say-beyond-words Athena. I can appreciate how intense the role was, given all the shenanigans her male lead got up to. She did an impressive job of taking her character and making her believable and loveable. It was a good performance. Kelly Chen was herself ethereal and sexy as Athena.

oh! … sidekicks

Eason Chan played Chow Chow, an over-the-top gay man who is a neighbour to Athena and rival for both Andrew and Angel’s attention and affections. Eason was good in his supporting role, but at times I found his delivery excessive and borderline screechy!

oh! … that’s a wrap

I did enjoy this film because I found the script well-written and the visual narrative was crafted to be appealing to the eye. I’d recommend this production for the leads who did a fine job of delivering the story and because the production design was stunning. The acting itself was as good as you would get from a film this old, and one would need to remind oneself that these two were a hit back then and are even more esteemed now. This film would have been early in their careers.

This film will appeal to romance or romcom fans, but also fans of the classic film or art-house styled films. I doubt that I will watch this film again, I have so many others on my ever-growing list that I have to get through, but this is a piece of classic Hong Kong film, so it will be added to my keepsake list.

I hope you’ll give this film a watch, it is worth it!

oh! … tidbits

This is not the first time that Kelly Chen and Takeshi Kaneshiro have acted together. They previously acted together in Anna Magdalena.

oh! … soundtrack

(not yet sourced online)

oh! … gallery


oh! … trailers


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