Director: Glenn Chan
Writer: Felix Tsang, Kiwi Chow
Cast: Stephy Tang, Philip Keung, Tse Kwan-ho, Ben Yuen
Running Time: 94 minutes
The UK Premiere is on July 25th at BFI Southbank as part of the Chinese Visual Festival (Tickets)
Shadows is a dark psychological thriller with nightmarish imagery and some supernatural elements. Featuring another excellent lead performance from Stephy Tang. This has been hailed as one of the best Hong Kong films of the year.
Revolving around a sinister murder case in which a social worker is compelled by an inner voice to kill his family and commit suicide. Shot in atmospheric noir style and with a taut, twisting narrative that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, the film features a commanding lead performance by popular actress Stephy Tang, who was herself traumatised by the emotionally gruelling shoot and the film’s delving into the darkness of the human psyche. (Chinese Visual Festival)
Glenn Chan makes his Hong Kong film debut with an ambitious thriller that will make an impression with its uniqueness and inventiveness. Out of recent Hong Kong films, it's hard to think of one that is similar. And while not everything about this film works, there is plenty to celebrate and admire.
Stephy Tang is a revelation. Over the years, she has managed to shake off the pop star image and establish herself as a serious actress. Stephy is now known for acting in challenging and dramatic roles, her most prominent being The Empty Hands and My Prince Edward. Both of these roles got her a nomination for Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards. After watching Shadows, it feels like she could receive a third nomination as she delivers another show-stealing performance.
This film is incredibly stylish. Featuring slick camerawork and great cinematography to give it a noir feel. There is brilliant use of lighting throughout to create the dark mood and unsettling atmosphere. When Dr Tsui enters into a patient's subconscious there is often an impressive use of imagery and visual effects on display to capture how anxious and terrifying the whole process is. It's all handled excellently.
Unfortunately, the scenes inside the patients subconscious is an intriguing idea, and it looks fantastic, but it feels like an idea that was never fully realised. This was a concept that deserved more time to be explored before the film reached its exciting and somewhat bemusing conclusion. While this gimmick might have borrowed ideas from other films, they manage to make it work and still feel fresh and it feels like more screen time should have been spent on this.
Philip Keung co-stars as detective Ho and injects some fun into the story. Ho and Dr Tsui team up in an almost buddy-cop style trope as they investigate the crime together. His character of Ho is pretty simple and wants to work within the law and catch the bad guys, but the way he plays off of Dr Tsui is a neat contrast. There's also a side story involving his daughter which is often touching and charming.
At a trim 94 minutes, the film is a breeze, and it is entertaining from start to finish. Some extra time to fully develop the ideas and plot could have benefited the overall story, as well as more time exploring how much actual power the psychiatrists have over the patient's free will. Parts of the film are pretty ambiguous which suits the style and genre of film, but some viewers might think it's too open-ended.
Overall, Shadows is a good thriller that is visually stunning and entertaining even with its flaws.