Her Tender Love
Hong Kong 1969
Directed by Lui Kei.

What looks to be another lighthearted family drama of the common type ends up pushed way up to the boundaries, the sort of family you might see on the Jerry Springer show. First, there's dad -- he's rich. His son Chin-hua is a useless, dissolute gambler who wastes all his money and wishes him dead. Dad almost shoots him, but has a heart attack instead. Chin-hua "neglects" to call the doctor, then burns his father's last minute change of will to disown his son, which he wrote in blood on his bedsheet moments before death.

He also has a daughter, too, Ping-Ting (Connie Chan), a good girl to the core. Her brother has a friend named Valentino who will stop at nothing to have her, either with her consent or without. Rounding out the family, dad also had a step-son, of no blood relation, named Chai-hua (Lui Kei). And just to make the family as disturbingly screwed up as possible, Chai-hua and Ping-Ting are in love. No blood relation, yes, still creepy, also yes.

Chin-hua quickly parties through all of dad's money, then tricks Ping-Ting into assuming the debt. Ping-Ting and Chai-hua do the only reasonable thing at that point -- run like hell. They go to Hong Kong, where Ping-Ting sacrifices, working in a factory, while Chai-hua finishes his education.

The first half of the film is incredibly intense, a madhouse family unraveling while smooth lounge music plays in the background. After relocating to Hong Kong, however, the film takes on the tone similar to mainland communist pictures of the time, putting the dedicated factory worker on a pedestal. But, instead of working for the good of the Party, she works then goes to a Christmas Party. And it's all so Chin-hua can pursue his studies and get a higher degree.

The middle of the picture sags considerably, especially under the weight of most of the musical numbers of the film, simple as they are -- though there is a dream sequence number at the halfway point that is utterly bizarre.

Lui Kei, who also wrote and directed the picture, and Connie Chan have great onscreen chemistry, but the fact that they are (step)brother and sister is an unnecessary plot detail that does nothing to endear the audience to their romance.

Melodrama, music, attempted rape, murder, (near-)incest, and a fetishistic admiration of factory workers, HER TENDER LOVE has it all. It's something of a classic, one that I know I will revisit again in the future.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on October 23, 2005.

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