Although Hong Kong cinema had a difficult year in 2002, films like Riley Ip’s Just One Look continue to reaffirm the industry’s energy and talent. Though marketed squarely towards teens with four young stars in the lead roles, the film also charmed older audiences touched by coming-of-age themes, nostalgia, and a tribute to the cinemagoing experience.
Set on Cheung Chau Island, Just One Look follows a pair of teenage boys, Fan (Shawn Yu) and Fishball Ming (Wong You-nam), growing up in the 1970s. One has been dreaming up revenge since his father died in the ‘60s and both set their hearts on a pair of local girls (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung). Around this framework the filmmakers revive an entire community experience for the screen, from picturing laid-back street life to charting trends. The village setting is presented impeccably, crafting a convincing portrait of a past lifestyle far removed from the crowded city.
Central to the Cheung Chau setting is a cinema - a community hub where fans catch faves on the big screen, where kids copy plot synopses into their love letters and where passersby grab snacks at the front steps. The cinema angle also sees the movie’s gangsters and teens catch the martial arts craze through kung-fu flicks; excerpts of ‘60s and ‘70s movies spliced in; and the creation of fake movie scenes based on classics and featuring Just One Look’s young stars. Gorgeous hand-painted billboard art not only marks changing cinema schedules but also reflects shifting themes from one scene to the next.
Shawn Yu and Wong Yau-nam prove themselves able performers in the two lead roles and both are backed well by popular singers Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung (known together as pop group Twins) playing love interests. Anthony Wong performs an enjoyable supporting role as the small-time gang boss Fan accuses of killing his father.