River of Exploding Durians 榴莲忘返 (2014) – Malaysia [2015 HKAFF]
Reviewed by: Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Director: 杨毅恒 Edmund Yeo
Cast: 朱芷莹 Zhu Zhi-ying, 高圣 Shern Koe, 刘倩妏 Daphne Low, 梁祖仪 Joey Leong
I have always been interested in Edmund Yeo’s works and his transition from shorts to feature length film is by no means a simple journey. The film is narratively constructed to reflect several layers of mirrors, Edmund’s own childhood, first love and reflections on politics and the wider world around him through the male lead character, while the characters in the film themselves crosses parallel paths. The film itself is by no means an easy viewing, some moments are better than others, but Yeo excels in delivering a message, a tone, a mood and ultimately a perspective. The use of real life protests and often forgotten historical event footages and photographs provides the film with a strikingly emotional edge.
The three young leads shines through admirably through Yeo’s improvised method of filming, allowing actors to be creative in their expression, while capturing the essence of the situation. Joey Leong（梁祖仪) who plays Mei Ann impresses the most with a highly matured performance that captures the mysteriousness of her character as well as the manner of how she simply “lives” through her circumstances. Koe Shern (高圣) manages to do one thing particularly well, especially during lingering moments, he reminds us of a younger Edmund Yeo. Daphne Low (刘倩妏) gives a strong and raw performance and shines through in the scenes where she confronts the teacher (played by Taiwanese Zhu Zhi Ying) and the playground scene where she is blatantly beaten to the ground.
All in all, River of Exploding Durians succeeds through Yeo’s vision to deliver a simple, but telling message for many repressed young generation around Asia to simply open their eyes. Yeo touches upon many topics, the nostalgic and holistic aspect of first love, the learning curve, the realisation and the confrontation of the ugly truth around us. As a result, the films have some great moments as well as some that could have been better served with tighter editing. Still for a first feature and low budget constraints, Yeo produced something for us to ponder about. (Neo, 2015)
Recommended film and endorsed by HK Neo Reviews.