Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Home In My Heart
This Taiwanese production opens with an untranslated Chinese language crawl for which Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review editor Sanney Leung has kindly provided the English equivalent:
"It was the darkest of times, it
was the brightest of times. It was a time of pessimism, it was a time
Hsu Chi (left) and Annie Wu Chen-chun (right). Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Orphans Lai (Hsu Chi) and Chun (Annie Wu Chen-chun) have
lived in a nunnery ever since childhood, when their families succumbed
to disease. Now that they have grown up, the Mother Superior gives the
mischievous pair the option to leave. Before they can decide, a group
of lost Chinese soldiers arrive seeking aid. The Mother Superior agrees
to hide them from the Japanese but Lai has a better plan: she and Chun
know the countryside and volunteer to guide the men to their objective.
Deciding that it is God's will, the Mother Superior reluctantly agrees.
Exchanging their habits for uniforms, the girls lead the men through the
countryside but their lack of combat experience alerts the enemy, leading
to the death of a Chinese soldier. The group eventually comes upon the
home of one of Lai's friends but the family has been massacred, their
bodies hung out for all to see.
Image courtesy Mei Ah.
While unabashedly sentimental (there are two Mandarin renditions of Amazing Grace), the film usually manages to avoid the heavy-handed patriotism commonly displayed in older Taiwanese war films like THE 800 HEROES, THE WOMEN SOLDIERS, and THE WOMEN WARRIORS OF KINGMEN. Be that as it may, writer/director Yeh Hong-wei (IRON SISTER) is content to present the Japanese as the sort of mindless animals always seen in Chinese war movies, be they from Taiwan, HK, or China, and the script is familiar in both the best and worst senses. Too old-fashioned and deliberately paced to garner a theatrical release in Hong Kong, HOME IN MY HEART remains moderately worthwhile, thanks primarily to earnest performances, but those expecting it to do more than push the usual buttons will likely be less forgiving.
Hsu Chi. Image courtesy Mei Ah.