With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Lost for Words
Directed by Stanley J. Orzel
Hong Kong, 2013, 107 minutes

Lost for Words is a romantic drama directed Stanley J. Orzel (4 Assassins, a.k.a. Far Away Eyes) and co-written by him and Joseph Bendy. The film is scheduled to open tomorrow, Friday, October 18th, 2013, in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto. (Check local listings or click here for showtimes and tickets at Fandango.)

The movie begins in a jail cell in China where Michael Vance (Sean Faris, The King of Fighters) is being held for hitting someone who was hurting a woman named Anna. Informed that he's about to be deported, he asks about seeing Anna and is told that she's under house arrest and that seeing her is out of the question.

The bulk of the film is about how this unfortunate pair came to meet and ended up in these circumstances.

Michael is an ex-marine who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. His fiancee Jessica has, not without some justification, called off their marriage. Michael is still in love with her; he uses pictures of her as a screensaver on his portable computer. He has come to Hong Kong to work as an IT specialist at a multinational corporation.

Lost for Words, a Studio Strada Production

Through a number of chance encounters, the first occurring at the airport when they both arrive, he meets Anna Zhou (Grace Hung, The Man with the Iron Fists). She's a ballerina who has come to Hong Kong from Beijing to dance with the Star East Dance Company. Accompanying her is Mei Mei Weng (Joman Chiang), a friend and fellow ballerina who is more worldly-wise and materialistic than Anna.

Michael and Anna come upon one another while jogging (their third encounter) and finally begin actually talking to one another. They agree to trade language lessons; Michael will help Anna with her English, and she will help him with Chinese. From this simple beginning, their relationship slowly evolves, eventually turning into a burgeoning romance. When he goes with her to her home village in mainland China, a situation arises that puts Michael in jail, Anna under house arrest and threatens to separate them forever.

While Lost for Words has a promising story line, it doesn't really succeed as an engrossing drama. The dialogue is very flat, sometimes bordering on the trite. And neither of the two lead characters seem to have any real depth.

Thirty-one year old Faris looks a lot like Ethan Hawke and occasionally exhibits a very faint hint of Tom Cruise's charm when they were each his age. But he's not believable as an ex-marine (too scrawny), and as an IT specialist, all he keeps saying is that he's got to write a lot of code. His character Michael is also incredibly bereft of any degree of imagination.

Similarly, Grace Huang is not given much opportunity to display whatever acting chops she may possess. Anna is so sweet and inexperienced that she borders on being completely bland. And it's clear that Huang is no ballerina by the way the "dance" scenes are shot.

The film also suffers from far too many "scenic" shots of Hong Kong, especially ones taken looking straight down from a helicopter. Publicity materials describe the film as being set against "the sweeping cityscape of cosmopolitan Hong Kong," but it sometimes starts to feel like a travelogue.

On the other hand, there are some very beautiful and striking visuals. The opening sequence in the jail has a look similar to German expressionism, with stark diagonals set off by high contrast. And there is one absolutely stunning scene that takes place in an aerial gondola.

ACF Rating: 2 out of 4 stars; a fair film, certainly flawed but not without some redeeming features and moments.