12日 (Sahp yih yaht)
Hong Kong, 2021, 90’, Cantonese
Directed by: Aubrey Lam
Screenplay: Aubrey Lam
Photography (color): Jam Yau
Editing: Macthew Hui
Art Direction: Angela Chiu
Music: Alan Wong
Producer: Ng Kin-hung
Cast: Stephy Tang (Jeannie Kwok), Edward Ma (Simon Hor), Ben Yuen (business partner John), Fimmy Wong (John’s wife), Violet Li (Jeannie’s mother), Peter Chan (cousin), Johnny Hui (Simon’s boss)
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
Back in 2000, scriptwriter Aubrey Lam debuted as director with Twelve Nights, one of Hong Kong cinema’s more challenging looks at romantic affairs. Drawing inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Lam used episodes to chart not just the sudden rise and slow decay of a relationship in Twelve Nights, but suggested cycles of such partnerships too. The film wasn’t an easy watch – for starters, its downbeat, anti-romance leanings made it a questionable pick for a date movie – and for its follow-up Lam doesn’t veer far from that dark mood either.
Like the earlier film, Twelve Days centres on an air hostess named Jeannie and her troubled love life. The audience meets Jeannie (Stephy Tang) on a messed up early date, when she and her beau Simon (Edward Ma) attempt to hang out on the waterfront during a typhoon. After struggling to find private space anywhere about town, the pair marry and get their own flat. But marital bliss doesn’t seem to be on the cards: Simon already shows a short temper on the wedding night, and as he works his way up the career ladder he becomes increasingly selfish, cruel and distant.
Eventually, with the duo living in luxury and their relationship ever more unfulfilling, viewers may wonder just what keeps Jeannie and Simon together. Lam for her part gives no easy answer: as in the first film, Twelve Days is structured as one-day vignettes sometimes set months apart and presented in a straight, non-flashy approach. Bitter language in the intertitles gives some direct commentary, but otherwise the audience must piece together their own thoughts on why Jeannie goes along with her man, why he takes her for granted, and why both can’t seem to let go of each other.
Twelve Nights unfolded with hallmarks of the pictures from the United Filmmakers Organization, in which Lam had developed as a screenwriter. That production house had been renowned for its polished and thoughtful comedies and dramas, often made with a middle-class sensibility, and Lam’s directing debut had kept with the style. So too does Twelve Days, which offers accomplished production standards and slips in low-key comic touches too. The pair of leads put in fine performances throughout, with plenty of heavy lifting needed from both given their characters’ general isolation onscreen. As Jeannie and Simon get mired in unhappy wedlock, Twelve Days isn’t one for those just wanting conventional romance cinema. For fans of more adventurous cinema, however, Aubrey Lam’s continued sketches of love and bitterness offer another thought-provoking take on the genre.
Aubrey Lam studied film in Los Angeles and then joined classes of the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild. In 1995 she joined the United Filmmakers Organization as a scriptwriter and worked on pictures including Peter Chan’s Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man (1996) and Jacob Cheung’s Yesterday You, Yesterday Me (1997). Lam’s debut as director came in 2000 with Twelve Nights, and she went on to direct pictures including the comedy Hidden Track (2003) and the romantic drama Anna & Anna (2007) while also continuing her fruitful collaborations with director Peter Chan as writer for Perhaps Love (2005), The Warlords (2007), Wu Xia (2011) and more.
2000 – Twelve Nights
2003 – Hidden Track
2007 – Anna & Anna
2014 – The Truth About Beauty
2015 – Love Without Distance
2021 – Twelve Days