First Night Nerves 八個女人一台戲 (2018) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
In true Gala Premiere fashion, we get the usual mid-festival star gazing first film at this year’s Hong Kong Cultural Centre with a Hong Kong film. This time we get renowned and respected director Stanley Kwan’s “First Night Nerves” and a star studded cast in presence of Sammi Cheng, Gigi Leung and Bai Baihe to name a few. This is a fantastic vehicle for female actresses in Hong Kong and Kwan is always wonderful in creating roles for the female characters that is a rarity in Hong Kong cinema. With the #metoo movement in full force, this is a lovely little timely and relevant film that captures diversity, women and equality at its core.
In this film, we get to see the best of Sammi Cheng (2nd Film with Kwan) as she plays the Ex-stage actress making a comeback to excellent dramatic effect. This contrast with the more modern acting of Gigi Leung who have improved a lot since the Ekin Cheng-90s pairings. Bai Baihe gets to go against her usual-type role with as a tomboyish yet cool lesbian persona. We get so many good performances all round including most of the supporting acts where even minor characters are suitably memorable.
This is not Kwan’s best film by far, but it is also filmed with the same elegance, depth, colour and design. The story is simple, but the real story is the characters’ each and very own and he dialogue is top-notched. This is a very fitting film to kick start this year’s Hong Kong Cultural Centre screenings for HKIFF. What I enjoyed about Kwan’s latest effort is the sincerity and realism that he goes about portraying female lead roles and the attention to details that he allows Sammi Cheng and Gigi Leung to shine through. This film is well suited for repeated viewings.
I rated it 8/10
Reviewed at the 43 Hong Kong International Film Festival 2019.