HKFA 2019 Review: Distinction 非同凡響

After spending the first two years working as a co-director in the award-winning Ten Years <十年> and Trivisa <樹大招風> in 2015 and 2016, Distinction <非同凡響> marks his first true test as a solo director.

Inspired by a true story, Distinction <非同凡響> follows three major interconnected stories revolved around a musical production at a special needs school where the kids able to showcase their abilities. This includes Grace Chui (Jo Koo), a SEN (Special Educational Needs) teacher trying to cope with the pressure of handling the aforementioned musical production; Ka-Ho (Kaki Sham) is a rebellious Band 3 student forced to participate in the musical production or risked getting expelled from school; and Zoey (Jennifer Yu), a shy and soft-spoken underachiever from an elite Band 1 school who takes part in the musical and at the same time, facing few problems of her own, namely struggling to impress her demanding art teacher with her artwork.

For the record, co-writer and director Jevons Au’s effort to address the current Hong Kong education system — in this case, the special needs school —  is both earnest and well-intentioned. But his screenplay, in which he co-wrote alongside Ashley Cheung and Chung Chui-Yi, is sadly superficial and even sometimes feel melodramatic, complete with on-the-nose dialogue just to get their message loud and clear.

Distinction <非同凡響> also suffers from Charles Lau and Martin Lai’s omnipresent maudlin score that tries too hard to evoke several emotional responses over the course of the movie’s 100-minute running time.

Still, the movie isn’t an outright disaster. It’s just that it wasn’t as great as it meant to be but more of a decent effort. Distinction <非同凡響> deserves credit for adding a non-professional cast, particularly Tse Ka-Long who steals the show as Ka-Ho’s younger brother. Majority of the cast in this movie is just as notable including Jo Koo and Kaki Sham as Grace Chui and Ka-Ho, while Jennifer Yu de-glamourises herself and gives a wonderfully restrained performance as Zoey.

38th Hong Kong Film Awards nominations:

Best Actress (Jennifer Yu)
Best Original Film Song (“Sun Shines Bright” by Jennifer Yu)

THREE-stars

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