Chinese Box Reviews
Meant to literally document Hong Kong's mood immediately after its 1997 return to mainland China's control, the film hits the ground running with a suicide bringing the main lovers together in the style of "A Room with a View." Jeremy Irons's hapless pursuit of his married best friend seemingly ends when he comforts her shock; the viewer roots for an awkward writer's triumph over himself and prejudice.
Unfortunately, the twist of his discovery he has incurable cancer leads to learning Irons' character is just another 'guy who deserted his family for jungle fever.' The great work Irons and co-star Gong Li are doing is further marred by Bad IHR plot device #4: only sex for hire can cure an Englishman's intolerant repression. They lose my interest at this point.
What partially saves "Chinese Box" is a figurative reminder of British colonials being more downtrodden than 'new territories' citizens. Irons tries to make a future he and Li won't have for a suicidal girl scholar turned street hustler and her wealthy, lost first lover whom he finds. When the younger Brit denies his ex-girlfriend, it's as culturally embarassing for a Westerner as Great Britain's denial of any (if Asian readers think applicable) post-holdover responsibility.
The women wind up free to go into the world alone but as who they really are while the British characters end up varying degrees of dead: unsatisfying on multiple levels. :down: