After This Our Exile : Aaron Kwok still mediocre to these eyes

Both Aaron Kwok and Gow Ian Iskander – the father and son referred to in the Chinese title of the movie – won acting accolades for their performances at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Awards in November. I have always found Aaron Kwok a mediocre actor and was not impressed with his award winning role in Divergence, so I was curious to find out whether he had improved.

Most of After This Our Exile was shot on location around Ipoh, Malaysia by Hong Kong new wave director Patrick Tam. This is the first film Tam has directed for over a decade. Technically, Tam has shot a beautiful film that is finely edited with nice montages. The screenplay features a minimal plot but concentrates instead on the inner psychology and emotions of the father and the son. Film length veers towards being overlong – but this is obviously not intended to be a commercial blockbuster, which is evident from the exquisite opening shots. I found the soundtrack to be the weak link on the production side of the film – it felt like a rushed job and the music even reduced the impact of the visuals on a few occasions.

On the acting side, I was impressed with the Gow Ian Iskander who stars as the son. This is his screen debut but he is a natural and successfully generated sympathy for the character. The same cannot be said for Aaron Kwok. Kwok delivers a self-conscious and at times over-the-top performance – you nearly always feel he is “acting”. Kwok, and for that matter all the Hong Kong actors, over-stress the Malaysian Chinese colloquialisms.

Verdict : a niche film that I feel is over-rated in terms of acting, but is nicely shot and edited by Patrick Tam.