A Family Tour 自由行 (2018) - Taiwan [HKAFF 2018]
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
There is a lot of problems with Ying Liang’s latest movie. It feels far too much a snapshot of a moment in his own life and experience that is unfortunately hampered by poor pacing, overindulgence on his own standpoint and failing to capture genuine emotions. I am all for political films and understand the hardship for it to reach the big screens, but “A Family Tour” is a personal story that should have remained a short film, rather than overblown to a feature length production. Lingering shots of tour buses, pretentious Chinese scholarly quotations and keeping distances from the characters in turn creates actual distance with the audience and a disconnecting effect. At the end, the film political content and director’s own controversy seems to have overshadowed the quality of the film.
Zhe Gong plays the director’s own alter ego and produces a rather soulless performance in a role that requires so much more presence. The overall performance is dull and outright boring. The same thing can be said of the husband (played by Pete Teo) who is supposed to be born in Hong Kong, but speaks broken Cantonese and fluent Mandarin, such protest undermines the quality of the film and ultimately its message. Perhaps, the best performance goes to the long suffering elderly mother played by An Nai, who captures the self-compliance of living in the Mainland and the gaps between her understanding with her daughter. The best scenes of the film remains the simple ones, the mother an daughter interactions and more focus on this would have been far more melodramatic.
All in all, “A Family Tour” is very much a festival film and despite wanting to say a lot about the political situations and freedom between China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is a poorly conceived film that fails to maintain attention spans and result in almost becoming a sleep-fest at times. Sometimes, extremely personal story like this one, works better in a far shorter format. With all the controversy and critical acclaim surrounding the film, it’s a wasted opportunity in the view of the current reviewer.
I rated it 5/10