2 Become 1
Hong Kong 2006
Directed by Law Wing Cheong.

A sensitive look at breast cancer. Though, I don't really recall Hong Kong movies ever being particularly insensitive about the topic. This is unusual, as Hong Kong movies typically have a cruel, schoolyard sense of humor about personal illness and blemishes, from moles, skin discoloration, and limps, to VD and AIDS. Why there hasn't been a character in any HK movie yet cruelly called "one-boob" or something, I can't imagine, though I am personally grateful for the omission. Still, even without its coverage in the movies, one can assume it is something of a misunderstood, taboo topic, as the condition is linked in many ways to westernization.

Hong Kong has the highest reported amount of breast cancer in asia, and according to an article published in the British Journal of Cancer (abstract here), women born in Hong Kong in the 60s have two to three times higher likelyhood of developing breast cancer than women born in the 1900s. As China continues to modernize ("westernize"), a breast cancer boom is likely, and likely already underway.

So breast cancer is a new fear in asia, not a traditional one, and a movie that doubles as a public service announcement has some social value. Alas, the movie is too prudish to be of significant value, illustrating the self-exam with fully clothed women only barely touching themselves. But apparently the breast is such a sexual fetish object that it could not even be shown in this educational context.

Miriam Yeung plays Bingo, a woman working at an ad agency and pining for her old boyfriend who disappeared many years ago. She has a fling with "V" (Richie Jen), who notices a lump in her breast when he fondles her up. Needless to say, she is furious at him, but gets it checked and finds that indeed, she has breast cancer. She rejects V angrily at first, but he continues to help her through the crisis and they grow closer together. There is some heat to their romance when it begins, but after the lump is discovered the heat is gone and Richie Jen reverts to his usual "really nice guy" performance, without even a hint of romantic attraction. Of late, Hong Kong romance movies are almost completely platonic, lacking in even a single spark, so I suppose we must be thankful for at least a moment of romance.

Miriam Yeung delivers a very good performance, she is sympathetic and for the most part very real. She has the usual core group of friends that this sort of picture always inserts, two girls and a gay guy, and though Jo Kuk/Koo is one of the girlfriends, they barely leave an impression. The subplots are not remarkably interesting, but are well written in that they support the central premise. She ravages a poor singer trying to start his career (played by Justin Lo, who in real life got a boost up in his singing career because his parents are in the industry, but so far, if the songs in this movie are any indication, lacks any talent or distinction of his own), then, once she feels guilty about it, tries to help him overcome the shock of the bad news she originally delivered, to overcome it. And in her advertising company, she must develop an ad campaign around a baby food that tastes terrible, but she discovers though it looks awful, and people say it tastes terrible, it really isn't.

2 BECOME 1 has some sweet moments, courtesy Miriam, and some dull and uninteresting moments, courtesy everyone else. But it could have been so much worse than it is. The soundtrack, however, truly is terrible. As if being pelted by Justin Lo's American Idol audition tapes isn't bad enough, the incidental music over the opening credits and several key moments of the story is a lilting, buoyant keyboard and harmonizing, humming vocals that evoke a happy go lucky idyll that may cause more sensitive viewers to seal the room and light up a barrel of charcoal.

From a story by Ivy Ho, a celebrated screewriter (COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY, July Rhapsody), and a screenplay by Fung Chih Chiang. Ivy Ho has done better. Though the topic is worthwhile, and the plotting successful for a change, the characters are depressingly one-dimensional. Still, fans of Miriam Yeung won't be disappointed.

Note: If you find Richie Jen appearing in public service announcements disguised as films an appealing subgenre, don't hesitate to follow up 2 BECOME 1 with Life Express, and learn about the value of bone marrow transplants.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 11, 2006.

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