Director – Kearen Pang – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. PG – 127m
A former music business exec tries to get back into the game managing a boy singer while her jealous teenage son takes his exams – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th
Essentially a three-hander, this centres around middle-aged mother Mei-fung (Teresa Mo Shun-kwan), her son, Jonathan (Jer Lau) who is doing exams and hopes the study at the UK’s Cambridge and similarly aged youth Fang Ching (Keung To). The two teenagers are played by members of phenomenally successful Cantopop boy band Mirror, arguably the production’s main selling point. It also has an unashamed music industry focus. Mei-fung, whose marriage is on the rocks, is a former record label executive who has decided to go back to the workplace now that her son is on the verge of going abroad.
She originally got out of the business at the insistence of her husband following a miscarriage. She was something of a workaholic, necessitated by her job of looking after talent, babysitting stars to the extent that juggling career and potential motherhood was well nigh impossible. Trying to get back into the game twenty years on, she find those former colleagues still involved don’t really see her return as viable, and she winds up working for a former associate who is now passionately running a private school for kids with an emphasis on creativity and the arts. Here she meets local restaurant worker Ching, who turns out to have the most incredible singing voice. A mixture of the maternal and the professional kicks in as Mei-fung and a number of old music biz contacts kick start his professional singing career.
That’s arguably the affair of the title – mum takes son for granted and lavishes attention on surrogate son instead – although it could also allude to the relationship of her husband to her former best friend which has reached the point of no return with the latter about to have his child.
The piece lurches uneasily between a drama exploring the middle-aged woman’s dilemma, which it never really delivers, and what is effectively sibling rivalry between the two sons (one of whom is not actually a birth son), which sits well enough with the idea of making the film a vehicle for two boy band members. The latter would have to be something incisive to elicit interest outside the band’s fan base, but it’s fairly routine stuff.
More effective, perhaps, is the subplot based around Jonathan’s school life and friends. It turns out he produces school plays, something his mum only finds out when she learns how to use social media for the purpose of promoting her new protégé. This element could have been used to great effect, but it’s woefully underused.
His friends, meanwhile, are typically Cantopop star-obsessed teenagers who want to know al about the latest singing sensation, unaware that Jonathan’s mum is the ascendant star’s manager. This leads to some knockabout comedy scenes of the sort that Hong Kong does so well, especially when Jonathan finds he’s invited friends over for an evening of studying for exams at the same time as his mum has moved Ching into the house.
Cue an evening where Jonathan forbids Ching from leaving his room to keep his presence from his obsessed friends, with much humour deriving from the limitations of two lavatories and the intake of food that gives several characters the runs. Sadly, this represents the comic high point of the film. Otherwise, it’s really one for fans of the band rather than anyone else.
Mama’s Affair is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, August 19th.