Her Tender Heart
Hong Kong 1959
Directed by Tang Huang.

Peiying (Lucilla You Min) was brought up by her father Li Boming (Wang Yin) in a modest household. She is excited that her auntie, Mrs. Zeng (Wang Lai) is coming to visit for two weeks, from Italy where she lives. But it turns out Mr. Li and Mrs. Zeng has more of a past than Peiying at first realizes. Though, it's pretty easy for the audience to figure out, since every time Peiying wonders about her long lost mother, Mrs. Zeng stuffs her knuckles in her mouth and tries not to cry. Eventually their sordid past comes tumbling out, and the second half is one tragic twist after another, leaving young Peiying dazed, weeping, and confused, her life turned upside down.

While the first half of HER TENDER HEART is unexceptional family drama, the second half cranks up the melodrama to "11". At first, Mrs. Zeng just lavishes gifts on the young girl, spoiling her in comparison to her spendthrift father. But then, their relationship devolves into a tug of war between the two and the question of who will raise her, for the rest of her life, and what is really best for her future, becomes central to the story. If that's not enough, a possible amputation is thrown into the mix, and as one character says to a doctor, without disagreement, "you know that the disabled can easily turn into a psycho!"

Wang Yin delivers a performance as Li Boming of great strength and also compassion. He stands like a pillar, holding together his family, and also, keeping the emotional rollercoaster of the film at least partially grounded. Wang Lai, on the other hand, though regarded at the time as a fine actress, here emotes so broadly that she becomes one of the few acresses whose facial expressions can be seen from space.

Lucilla You Min hits just the right notes in her portrayal of the high school student caught in the grip of decisions made by her parents when she was a child, decisions made before she could have her say. Even now, her parents try to make the decision for her, but in the end, at last, she makes the decision for herself, bringing the story, and the picture, to a close.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 25, 2005.

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