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Floating Life  

Director: Clara Law

Actors: Annette Shun Wah, Annie Yip, Anthony Wong, Edwin Pang, Cecilia Fong Sing Lee, Toby Wong, Toby Chan

Country: Australia

Like The Joy Luck Club (1993), Floating Life deals with the immigrant story, and is narrated by the characters of the film, this time, the children of the immigrant family. The Chan family decides to move to Australia, joining their eldest daughter who seems to have done quite well for herself, having acquired a husband, a successful career and big house in the suburbs. Their other daughter, played by Annette Shun Wah, is also well established, but in Germany with her husband and daughter. Their eldest son decides to stay behind in Hong Kong, to make as much money as possible, before eventually joining the rest. The film starts off with a light tone, playing with the comic situation that arises from a stranger in a strange land. Their first impression of Australia is a place filled with killer dogs, deadly UV rays and other horrors, and at times the film is surrealistic - especially with the strange re-occurrence of a lone kangaroo that Mr Chan keeps seeing everywhere. Mon, the eldest daughter, takes it upon herself to integrate her family into Australian life with all the drive and determination of a Nazi camp commander - whether they appreciate it or not.

However, the film gradually shifts into serious mode, as actions that seemed comical at first now have tragic consequences. Clara Law manages to handle this transition quite well, so you don't have the odd feeling of disconnection that other films have. The movie highlights the disorientation and alien-ness of the new land to an immigrant with the use of filters and camera angles that highlights the moods and landscapes - the vastness of space of Australian suburbia contrasts strongly with the busy, congested familiarity of Hong Kong. Films about the immigrant experience are nothing new, but Clara Law's interpretation in this method actually tries to convey to the audience just how things look through the eyes of a new arrival. The cast is made up of a lot of first-time actors, and though sometimes it is evident that some of the cast members are not native Cantonese speakers, the acting is of excellent quality. Mrs Chan's emotional and heart-breaking appeal to the family's ancestor spirits for help in saving her family is intensely moving, and serves to highlight the importance of old traditions in sustaining those who have chosen to settle far from their homeland. A beautiful film of honesty and heart.

Eden Law

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