馬達·蓮娜 (Ma Daat Lin Na)
Macau/Hong Kong, 2021, 97’, Cantonese, Chaozhou dialect
Directed by: Emily Chan
Script: Emily Chan
Photography (color): Peace Ao Ieong
Editing: Barfuss Hui
Art Direction: Leung Tsz-yin
Music: Fukushima Akitsugu
Producers: Ng Kin-hung, Tang Wai-but, Man Man Lai
Production Company: Local Production Ltd.
Cast: Louis Cheung (Mada), Chrissie Chau (Lena), Lam Sheung (Lee Cheuk-pan), Kou Cheng (Kei Kei), Marina de Senna Fernandes (Madame Tai), Peng Shiteng (Ming), Chan Sai-peng (Captain)
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
For travellers to the former Portuguese colony of Macau, the flashy casinos, gorgeous heritage sites and a centuries-old fusion cuisine all make for a head-spinning mix. But a different picture emerges in Emily Chan’s Madalena, set away from the tourist attractions and focused on people living in the society’s margins.
Macau is certainly no city of dreams for taxi driver Mada (Louis Cheung), an insomniac who drives through the night, lives in a crummy flat and pines for the wife who left him three years earlier. When viewers meet him in 2008, Mada’s stuck hopelessly in the past, still buying meals for two and hiring a hooker to read out what could be his ex-wife’s words, until migrant worker Lena (Chrissie Chau) enters his life.
Illicitly working two jobs to send cash to her daughter and mother in mainland China and saving up to open a restaurant back home, Lena has been busy round the clock in Macau for around eight years. After they meet while she evades the police, Mada offers to chauffer Lena between her cramped hostel and the restaurant she works at, and gradually they find they have things in common. He too is a mainland immigrant, having arrived 10 years earlier, and Macau hasn’t been much of a home for him either. As romance grows in the breaks between Lena’s work, the chance arises for them to step out of the ruts their lives have fallen into. But while fun diversions turn up, including a little ruse to show Lena’s kid that Mum has a reputable job, events from the past threaten to cast a shadow.
Macau director Emily Chan, making her third feature, offers an impressive portrait of not just her characters but aspects of city life, too. Chan opens the picture with the bright lights of a casino district, but immediately moves on to capture the alleyways, shabby buildings and seedier establishments that also factor into the cramped urban landscape. And, with the pace of the picture more relaxed than what’s typical of films from nearby Hong Kong, she offers plenty of room for the two lead characters to develop. When the relationship of the pair starts to blossom, Madalena steps up to deliver some pleasing romance cinema, and later tensions add cinematic oomph. A side story meanwhile unfolds as a debt-ridden pal of Mada’s becomes smitten with a blind neighbour, adding even more love-story elements while also touching on a running theme linked to money.
Hong Kong stars Louis Cheung and Chrissie Chau head the cast with strong performances, convincing as troubled long-time Macau residents jolted out of loneliness. Cheung adds a more measured and quiet role to his rapidly growing and diverse filmography, while Chau, delivering lines in Cantonese and the Chaozhou dialect, shows a great flair for personal and romantic drama as her character picks up more of the plot’s heavy lifting. Madalena could go a long way towards raising the pair’s profiles as actors, and so too should it draw more attention to the talent of the film’s writer-director. With this third feature, Emily Chan shows not just an affinity for carefully studied social drama but a readiness to deliver crowd-pleasing flourishes as well.
Fujian-born Emily Chan is a screenwriter, director and producer in Macau, and has made shorts, documentaries and feature films. Chan took part in movie-related and news-reporting internships before graduating from the University of Macau in 2012, and made her first feature film with Timing (2014). She later completed a master’s degree in journalism at Renmin University of China in Beijing and went on to helm the feature Our Seventeen (2016), expanding on her short film of the same title. Her subsequent feature film Madalena (2021) was selected for Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Project Promotion in 2018.
2014 – Timing
2016 – Our Seventeen
2021 – Madalena