Two residents in an apartment block, Mr. Zao (James Hong), an aged Chinese gentleman, and Sarah Silver (Leelee Sobieski), a young aspiring actress, strike up an unlikely daughter-grandfather relationship. Mr. Zao lives alone with the memories of his sister, Mai Mai, who was killed in the Second World War. Sarah is an understudy for the star of a play, Sylvia, and is having liaisons with Sylvia's husband, Philippe (Jalil Lespert), also an actor in the same play. However, Sarah is becoming frustrated with the state of affairs because Philippe refuses to divorce his wife and she is not given any opportunities to perform Sylvia's role. When Sarah starts to meet Mr. Zao, it causes tensions with their two neighbours, Roger Castellac (Jean-Paul Roussillon), a retired conductor, and Caroline (Marie Loboda), a young girl.
The premise and the first part of the film are the most intriguing. James Hong, who is often limited to secondary ethnic roles in American productions, finally gets the opportunity to be the leading man. His Mr. Zao, who is initially considering going to a retirement home, visibly comes back to life when he begins his relationship with Sarah. It's not hard to see why: Leelee Sobieski is very appealing as the nymph-like young women who is barely out of her teens and living overseas away from her parents in Australia. Another Australian connection is Samantha Lang, who has directed films in Australia.
Unfortunately, in the second part of the film, the relationship between Mr. Zao and Sarch stops progressing, and Hong's hesitant French begins to interrupt the flow of the film. Lang and co-writer Gerard Brach also focus on Sarah's histrionics, which is rather contrived and not interesting.
Interesting start, but the story peters out half-way.
French language with English subtitles.
2 out of 5 stars.
13 March 2009