REVIEW: The Journey
IF YOU were born and raised in Asia with a father that hugs and says ‘I love you’, then you are lucky.
Asian fathers have a reputation for not being expressive in their feelings towards their children and is one of the themes in ‘The Journey’, a film presented by Astro Shaw and produced by Woohoo Pictures.
‘The Journey’ revolves around the relationship of widower father, Uncle Chuan (Lee Sai Peng) and daughter, Ah Bee (Joanne Yew Hong Im) struggling to rebuild their relationship, broken due to distance, lack of understanding and cultural differences.
Not making the situation between them any easier, Ah Bee brought home Caucasian fiancé Benji (Ben Andrew Pfeiffer) to introduce to her very strict, conservative father.
Ah Bee is still resentful that her father forced her to live with her aunt in England following the death of her mother. Because of the past, Ah Bee still holds a grudge towards him.
Initially, Uncle Chuan is opposed to the marriage due to Ben’s childish behaviour and their culture differences but he eventually accepts their marriage reluctantly, after a close friend of his came down with stroke, awakening him to the fact that life is short.
His acceptance comes with one condition, the wedding ceremony must be a Chinese ceremony and it has to be grand.
In accordance with Chinese tradition, son-in-law Benji is obliged to hand-deliver the wedding invitations together with his father-in-law. Uncle Chuan has decided to invite all 11 former primary classmates now located all over Peninsular Malaysia to attend his daughter’s wedding. An interesting twist is that when they were young, all twelve classmates (including himself) nicknamed themselves according to the animals in the Chinese zodiac.
Without much choice, Benji agrees to the long-distance road trip with Uncle Chuan where they struggle with language and cultural barriers to comical effect.
Throughout the road trip catching up with friends, Uncle Chuan is frequently faced with the fact that life is unpredictable; one of his classmates lives in an old folks’ home and lives with the guilt of his son’s suicide, while another with dreams of creating a hot air balloon with recycled plastic bags passes away from a heart attack. This realisation makes him slowly accept the marriage of Ah Bee and Benji.
The story also depicts a friendship that transcends time and culture. Fatimah, Uncle Chuan’s only Malay classmate is also invited to the wedding. Now, when racial tension is building up across the nation, ‘The Journey’ reminds Malaysians that life-long friendship without racial barriers is possible.
Of course, the highlight of ‘The Journey’ is the survival of Chinese traditions in this modern society. To fully follow Chinese customs is dubbed as being conservative and old-fashioned. How the younger generation perceives traditional Chinese customs by the end of this film is a lesson for all. How the older generation bends some rules to make tradition more acceptable in current society is also another lesson to learn.
As many young Malaysians can relate, our choice in careers are often shaped by our parents and we are often told to choose high-paying jobs instead of pursuing our passions. In ‘The Journey’, Ah Bee is an art student whose talent lies in painting. This career choice is, of course, opposed by her father.
Does this ring a bell?
There’s nothing ‘alang-alang’ about this film. Thumbs up given to the props in this film; from the old furniture and decorations in Uncle Chuan’s house (I highly doubt if they are still on the market) to the 90-foot hot air balloon. According to the director, Uncle Chuan’s house is real and actually belongs to a real-life farmer who allowed them to use it for the film.
The beautiful panoramic shots throughout the film really make you look at Malaysia in a different light. The journey managed to capture all the beautiful sights of Malaysia, the hills, the beach and the plantation areas such as the paddy fields and tea plantations. The film was filmed over 40 different locations throughout Peninsular Malaysia.
TO sum it up, it is a touching and heart-warming film that is sure to make you laugh and cry. The storyline hits close to the Malaysian heart regardless of what race you are.
‘The Journey’ somehow manages to touch on the love between father and daughter, lovers, childhood friendship and cultures, and wrap everything up in 100 minutes. The Malaysian cinematic scene should have more of this genre featured on our cinema screens.
Is ‘The Journey’ worth all the buzz? Absolutely yes.
Watch out for ‘The Journey’ as it will premiere in 11 cinemas nationwide for 100 lucky audiences at every location, on a first come first serve basis. In Sarawak, the film will premiere at MBO, The Spring.
For more information, visit www.thejourney.my
Chiu Keng Guan
Ben Andrew Pfeiffer, Lee Sai Peng, Joanne Yew Hong Im
Heart Warming Family Comedy
30 Jan 2014
More film stills below: