Christmas at the Royal Hotel (2018) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (FCCA)
Along the lines of English language feature length films shot and independently produced in Hong Kong, like Joe Fiorello’s “Love Stalk”, Emily Ting’s “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong”, filmmaker Craig McCourry continues this niche with “Christmas at the Royal Hotel”. Shot entirely in Hong Kong and at times within set pieces created within McCourry’s place of residency, this film is surprisingly well shot, clearly attention for details for the 1940s era and some good and decent acting turns to round out the small, but effective production.
Making independent films is not easy in Hong Kong and the passion McCourry and the diverse international cast puts into the film is admirable. Harry Oram plays one of the leads, shows the fish out of water displacement look throughout with a clear rawness in his acting. Lydia Lee who plays the crucial role of journalist is effective, but stays within her comfort zone without any standout sequence. Ashley Leung who plays one of the hotel staff slowly grew into her role and provides some of the films best emotive moments in the latter scenes. The bell boy played by George John Alex simply steals and chew scenery with a lively display. Will Cheung as the film main traitor and villain provides the film with an rare outburst that matches the dominance of the British commander.
There is a lot of finer details of the period, including heritage locations shots of Hong Kong and also filming at the historical Kowloon Cricket Club in the bar and snooker scenes. The lighting and cinematography provides the film with a professional look and the lone Japanese soldier provides the film with unintentional comedic effect. There is also a scene where we see the solider take out a picture of his child and for Hong Kong cinema fans, we all know that he will be dying soon.
All in all, McCourry created a nice looking film with decent acting and punches way above the film’s small budget. Telling the often forgotten battle of Hong Kong 1941 Christmas tragic story from the Canadian, Indian and British perspective is important. As people of Hong Kong, we should not forget that these people also sacrifice their lives, families and many others for a city that may not even belong to them. Filming within a hotel setting for much of the duration also helps us to know the characters better, be it the guests, the soldiers or the receptionists. Credos to McCourry to bring the story and history of this crucial and sad moment in Hong Kong and lest we forget. With a large expat community and growing interest in these kind of films, it’s about time, Hong Kong local distributors take note for a local cinematic run.
I rated it 7.5/10
For screening details please refer to McCourry Films