A humble chauffeur (Chen Kun; Painted Skin, Let the Bullets Fly) and the spoiled wife of his wealthy employer (Carina Lau; Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time, Flowers of Shanghai) are linked together by very different kinds of dilemmas, in this quietly heart-rending double-character study from first-time feature director Flora Lau.
Flora Lau's quietly heart-rending Bends is an exploration of geographical, financial, and emotional borders. When we first see chauffeur Fai (Chen Kun) crossing over from Hong Kong, where he works, to mainland China, where he lives with his daughter and pregnant wife Ting (Tian Yuan), that border seems so easily traversable. But when it comes to keeping his family together, it's a seemingly impassable barrier. Ting is a citizen of mainland China, where violation of the government's one-child rule comes with a heavy fine. The family has no savings, and Fai can't figure out a way for Ting to give birth on the island.
Meanwhile, Fai's employer Anna (Carina Lau) has problems of her own. As the wife of a powerful businessman, she's accustomed to living in luxury. But Anna's life is thrown into a tailspin when her husband suddenly disappears — and cancels her credit cards. Both Fai and Anna carry secrets regarding their spouses: so that no one discovers Ting's pregnancy, Fai tells the neighbours that she is visiting her mother; and Anna attempts to maintain the illusion that her husband hasn't abandoned her. In both cases, the ruse can only last so long.
Captured in drifting hand-held shots and
a sumptuously muted palette by the great
cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Bends
is a delicate double-character study, elegant
and suggestive in the way that it links Fai's
new heights of desperation with Anna's
new depths of loneliness. The film marks a
truly auspicious debut for Lau, from whom
we can expect great things to come.