Is marriage really essential to live happily ever after? That is one of the questions pondering upon My Prince Edward <金都>, which marks the feature-length debut for writer and director Norris Wong (Yee-Lam).
The Cantonese title of the movie refers to Hong Kong’s Golden Plaza, a shopping mall located at Prince Edward best known for its bridal shops and wedding supplies. Fong (Stephy Tang), who works in one of the mall’s bridal shops, has been in a relationship with her wedding-photographer boyfriend Edward (Chu Pak-Hong) for the past seven years. Both of them also happened to live together in a small apartment above the mall.
But despite all the convenience and their years-long relationship, Fong isn’t particularly content with her love life. She finds Edward more of a slacker who spends his free time playing video games than tending to her needs. And that is not all, as he’s hardly the kind of take-charge guy who would rather listen to whatever his mother (Nina Paw Hee-Ching) tells him to do.
Then comes one night where Edward finally proposed to her. However, Fong feels sceptical about marrying to him but she reluctantly agrees anyway. While she contemplates over her current situation, she also has been harbouring a secret for the last ten years.
That secret in question involved her sham marriage with a mainlander (Jin Kaijie’s Yang Shuwei), where she did so for the sake of money after running away from her home and use it to rent a place with her friends, Yee (Eman Lam) and Mabel (Yem Yuen).
To make things complicated, both Fong and Yang are not officially divorced after the agent that set them up for the so-called marriage in the place got arrested. As she secretly tries to find ways to get her divorce, Yang shows up one day in hope of needing Fong’s help to obtain his Hong Kong residence permit.
If you can get past over Norris Wong’s penchant for shifting one scene to another with abrupt transitions and jump cuts, My Prince Edward <金都> deserves huge praise for her restrained direction. In the hands of a lesser director, such a movie like this can easily fall prey to an overwrought Hong Kong romantic drama mixed with obligatory comic-relief moments. For the latter, Wong does include some lighthearted scenes by casting Kaki Sham in a comic-relief supporting role as Edward’s assistant. Here, she generates enough worthwhile laughs without going over-the-top while expertly balancing them with a thoughtful relationship drama about unfulfilled love, marriage and freedom.
In My Prince Edward <金都>, she portrays love as complicated as life itself. There’s no fairytale, meet-cute or typical wish-fulfilment moments commonly associated with Hong Kong romance genre. It may sound depressing but Norris Wong (thankfully) doesn’t turn her movie into a wholly joyless affair. Her three principal characters — Fong, Edward and Yang — are all someone we can easily relate to.
Beginning with Fong, Stephy Tang’s award-nominated role is the kind of indecisive person who doesn’t really knows what she wants. Although she’s clearly unhappy and feeling trapped over her stagnant relationship with the somewhat immature Edward that doesn’t go anywhere, she could only bottle up her emotions than getting proactive in taking action. And for that, Stephy portrays such a role with terrific nuance. This is easily her finest performance to date since her career renaissance in 2017’s The Empty Hands <空手道>.
Her co-star Chu Pak-Hong is perfectly cast as Fong’s slacker boyfriend while Jin Kaijie equally delivers a strong supporting turn as Yang Shuwei. The latter is also indirectly served as a longing reflection of freedom and dream contrasted well with the current sociopolitical tension between Hong Kong and China. Like Fong, Yang is desperately looking for a way out and the only ticket for him to do so is getting the Hong Kong ID so he can travel anywhere he wants. And in this case, he wants to seek a greener pasture in America.
One of the best Hong Kong films of 2019 (even though it was only officially screened to the public in Hong Kong in June this year and in Malaysia beginning this week), My Prince Edward <金都> is no doubt an excellent debut for Norris Wong and I’m looking forward to see her next work in the future.