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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 06.25.09] movie review horror fantasy

Year: 2009
Directors: Wai Ka-fai
Writers: Wai Ka-fai / Kin-Yee Au
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6.3 out of 10

Written By is the sinuous story of a family who lose their father in a car accident and write a novel as a way to grieve. In this novel, they die in the crash and their dad lives on in the story where he writes his own novel in which he dies and they live on. All these narratives manage to co-exist and sometimes even overlap in a loopy, sometimes incomprehensible fable about life, love, death and recovery.

Despite utilizing one of the most interesting narrative framing devices I've seen in a film in years, Written By is a surprisingly flatlined viewing experience that is hampered by some poor pacing, and a tone that treads a little too close to kids fantasy for my taste. It's too bad too, because Written By had the potential to be on par with the best work of Charlie Kaufman (read: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

There's no faulting the acting or the screenplay though. Each actor contends with their multitude of doppelgangers admirably, and Ka-fai is at his best directing one of Hong Kong’s best actors, Lau Ching-wan, in the demanding role of the blind father (oh yeah, did I forget to mention he's blind? Sorry), trapped somewhere between fiction and reality.

Surprisingly, there are also a ton of well executed special effects sequences and some innovative green screen work. At one point, the family all cross into "the underworld" which is like a narrative no-man's land in which all the stories and characters co-exist. Despite being a little Harry Potterish in look, it's a nifty sequence with flying books and a magical trolley car that transports dead souls. These diversions are few, but are a blessing as they alleviate some of the pacing issues.

The bottom line here is that Written By is a brave story that isn't afraid to get its hands dirty when dealing with life and death. It's got a fantastic premise that's rife with fantasy but it's just not the most entertaining film for some reason. I liked a lot about it though, and, as a curio, would recommend it to fans of Wai Ka-Fai in a heartbeat.

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Pat (13 years ago) Reply

Wai Ka-fai also directed "The Mad Detective" which also starred Ching Wan Lau (the lawyer in this film). that was a great, great movie. i m looking forward to this.

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