Goddess of Mercy
Hong Kong 2004
Directed by Ann Hui.

Yang Rui (Liu Yunlong) is a Beijing businessman and womanizing pig who tries to nail the plain-looking but attractive An Xin (Vicki Zhao) on a bet from a friend. Instead, he falls in love with her. She keeps her distance, due to a tragic past involving two lovers (Chen Jianbin and Nicholas Tse) and a son, whom she is raising by herself, much to Yang Rui's surprise. They try and make a life together before their pasts catch up with them.

An Xin is given a jade necklace of Kwanyin, and is told she looks like the goddess in some way. In a way, she becomes the goddess to Yang Rui, who finds peace in his soul through her presence ("An Xin," we are told, also means "peace"). He makes a transformative journey in the film, while many of the others remain unable to break the bonds of their past mistakes.

Director Ann Hui obviously has left her past behind her, GODDESS OF MERCY is the best film she has made in many years. As usual, she pulls excellent performances out of all her principle players; but beyond that, the cinematography is focused, the music adds depth without distracting, the script is clean, clear, and polished. Every aspect of the production is exceptional.

GODDESS OF MERCY is a mostly dark and depressing film, though, which no doubt detracts from any popularity it might otherwise have had. The first line is, "This is the most depressing day of my life," and it doesn't get much better from there. The conclusion is as violent and bleak as they come. But An Xin has moments of happiness, we treasure those moments as they pass. And as her friend and former boss says at the end, "I don't understand Love. But I can understand hope." Sometimes, it is all we have.

Rating: Highly Recommended (Highly Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on January 03, 2005.

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