have never seen the streets and business plazas of Hong Kong so empty.
Fortunately, thanks to cell phones, loitering does not look nearly as suspicious
as it used to. Despite his awkwardness, Leonard To will indeed be able to closely
shadow the man he believes might be responsible for his wife’s murder in Dax
Phelan’s English language HK production, Jasmine
screens as part of the 2015 Asian American International Film Festival in New York.
is very definitely not over his wife’s death yet, but the Hong Kong police have
apparently moved on. As a result of his debilitating grief, he lost his job and
his waterfront apartment. However, just when he starts looking to restart his
career, he observes a mysterious figure placing flowers on his wife’s grave.
When he subsequently follows the strange man to the site of his wife’s murder,
he assumes this must be the guilt-ridden killer.
plenty of time on his hands, To manages to find a way to snoop through his
suspect’s luxury flat. He also starts tailing the unnamed man’s girlfriend, Anna,
a model struggling to jumpstart her acting career. Only Grace, an understanding
family friend, still finds time to see him, but even she is alarmed by his
increasingly erratic behavior.
Jasmine is definitely what
you would call a slow-burner. It is also a “big twist” kind of film, springing
a third act revelation that will radically alter the audience’s perception of
everything that preceded it. You can never re-watch Jasmine with the same mindset, but it would be interesting to revisit
each scene in a different light.
Tobin is pretty darned extraordinary as To, personifying twitchy, clammy
pathos. He keeps us deeply unsettled, while closely guarding the film’s
secrets. It is almost a one-man show, but Sarah Lian and Eugenia Yuan (daughter
of the great Cheng Pei-pei and former U.S. Olympian) add considerable human
depth and emotional heft to the film as Anna and Grace, respectively. Byron
Mann has little to do except obliviously lead To through Hong Kong, but he has
the perfect presence for the role, honed by a number prior villainous big
screen turns. Grace Huang (star of producer
Jennifer Thym’s dynamite short film Bloodtraffick)
also briefly appears as Jasmine To, but you might miss it if you blink at an inopportune
is a dark, tightly disciplined thriller, occupying
the space where film noir and existential angst overlap. Phelan pulls off some
impressive misdirection, while cinematographer Guy Livneh gives the proceedings
an eerily cool sheen. Recommended for fans of psychological suspense, Jasmine screens this Thursday (7/30) at
the Village East, as part of this year’s AAIFF.
Labels: AAIFF '15, Eugenia Yuan, Hong Kong Cinema, Psychological Thrillers