Drawing parallels between polar opposites

Babyjohn Choi and Joyce Cheng star in 29+1.
Babyjohn Choi and Joyce Cheng star in 29+1.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / DRAMA

29+1 (PG)

111 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: Calorie-counting and vitamin-popping executive Christy Lam (Chrissie Chau) gets a promotion at work, but she starts to question what she wants in life on the eve of her 30th birthday. When she is forced to move from her apartment, she ends up in the charmingly and whimsically decorated home of Wong Tin Lok (Joyce Cheng), who turns out to share the same birth date and is on her dream vacation to Paris.

Rat-race fatigue is not exactly new or unusual and Christy's story - which writer-director Kearen Pang first staged as a one-woman play in 2005 - feels a little too familiar to be revelatory.

Perhaps a stronger actress would have made the role more sympathetic. Chau, who remains better known for her pictorial books than acting chops, is adequate here, but not quite compelling enough.

Things get more interesting with the entry of Tin Lok.

Carefree and cheerful, the unambitious record store assistant is the polar opposite of Christy.

Cheng is very good, admittedly in a role that is easier to like. There is a joy and sweetness to her performance that lights up the screen and there is nice rapport between her and Babyjohn Choi, who plays Tin Lok's best friend.

Pang draws parallels between the lives of the two women and, intriguingly, Christy starts to imagine herself as Tin Lok. It feels a little jarring here because Chau and Cheng are physically so different.

One cannot help but think that this conceit would have worked better in the one-woman play, when Pang slipped in and out of both roles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Drawing parallels between polar opposites'. Subscribe