Watching See You Tomorrow (擺渡人) is like partaking in one of the extreme alcohol challenges featured in the film. You’re having the time of your life even though nothing is really making sense anymore, and the party rages on at full throttle as shot after shot comes in. It only gets better as your consciousness starts to fade … and you wake up with a horrible hangover wondering what the hell happened.
There’s little substance to this film, which runs on pure adrenaline and dopamine in a purposely over-the-top world where drinking 50 shots of Siberian vodka within a minute is just one event over a wild night. The humor is mostly slapstick or culture-specific, with nods to many past films and the latest pop phenomena and sayings in the Chinese-speaking world — typical of your local Lunar New Year blockbuster that is not meant to garner much attention outside of Asia. Don’t be surprised that it’s produced by Wong Kar-wai (王家衛) — the arthouse legend has done this before with the screwball comedy The Eagle Shooting Heroes (東成西就), which premiered during the holidays in 1993.
First-time director Zhang Jiajia (張嘉佳), who adapted the script from his own short story, pronounced it a “Wong Kar-wai film story told in a Stephen Chow (周星馳) manner.” But it leans too much toward Chow’s nonsensical comedic style. We can see his efforts to emulate Wong from the visual stylings to the themes of yearning and unrequited love, but the dialogue is trite, the ideas are shallow and the emotional pull does not even come close to a “genuine” Wong flick.
Chow’s productions are usually fun to watch, and so is See You Tomorrow, with its crazy characters and their shenanigans along with the ultra-glitzy and splashy visuals. But in the end, it’s just a temporary distraction to the glaring plot holes, cheap story gimmicks and lack of depth due to cramming too much into one film. We know that things aren’t supposed to make sense in these types of films, but at least we should leave feeling that there was some sort of resolution — even if it is everyone lives happily ever after.
See You Tomorrow 擺渡人
Directed By:Zhang Jiajia (張嘉佳)
Starring:Tony Leung (梁朝偉) as Chen Mo, Kaneshiro Takeshi (金城武) as Guan Chun, Angelababy (楊穎) as Xiaoyu
Language:Mandarin and Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles
Running Time:128 Minutes
Not here, as we don’t really know what any of the main characters gained out of the events. The whole premise is based on Tony Leung’s (梁朝偉) role as a “ferryman,” who is hired to guide those who are drowning emotionally to the “shore.” The problem is the film is so bogged down by the characters’ wacky hijinks that we don’t actually see him seriously at work until halfway through the film.
And even then, the way people are “saved” in the film is trivial and childish — for example, Leung “helps” a fat lady whose groom ran away on wedding day get over her heartbreak by starving her for 48 hours and diverting her attention to food. It appears that in this world, people can just turn their lives over by one simple event. And in the end, there is no epiphany for Leung or his protege Xiaoyu (楊穎, Angelababy). Nor for any of the other “main” characters, of which only Guanchun (Kaneshiro Takeshi, 金城武) gets significant screen attention with an even more ridiculous backstory.
On that note, Kaneshiro should be applauded as he plays probably the most extreme character in the movie with gusto. Leung is a bit disappointing, but part of it may have to do with his incessant switching between Cantonese and Mandarin (and sometimes English), which is the most puzzling part of the film. It’s not just Leung — all Hong Kong-based actors do this constantly and often several times within one sentence. There is one scene where a character speaks exclusively in Cantonese while his sister only speaks Mandarin, and it’s as if the director thinks that speakers of the two languages can automatically understand each other.