Lost and Found (1996)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-07-31
"Lost and Found" is an almost perfectly cast, very well paced romantic drama with a self-consciously but still very effective twist ending that will break even the hardest of hearts and plenty of handkerchief wringing scenes along the way. There is an obvious and outrageous false note in the last sixty seconds of the movie but by then we are so in its thrall that it is easy to ignore.

There is much more to making a movie than assembling a great cast, though. A case in point is "Lavender" which also starred Kelly Chan and Kaneshiro Takeshi and included an exotic foreign location. "Lavender" was an unwatchable mess. The difference lies in the script. Even though it followed the well worn path of the beautiful but doomed heroine being brave, noble and beautiful--growing more radiant as the disease progressed--"Lost and Found" was perfectly pitched for its actors and allowed them the inhabit or impersonate their characters quite well.

Lam is the character that Kelly Chan was born to play. Her close to blank affect and dramatic estrangement from the rest of the cast are exactly what is called for here. Lam is the daughter of a very demanding father who, we discover early in the film, thinks very little of her abilities or potential. This withdrawal of parental love has made Lam into an emotionless husk, to the extent that she announces that she has cancer at a job interview that her father, who owns a shipping company, has arranged for her with the board. He is present when she says, after going through her academic qualifications, that her medical report will show that she has cancer with a 30% chance of recovery which won't keep her from carrying out the job.

Her illness also isolates Lam from the rest of the characters--she is a subject of the Kingdom of Cancer a place where one's residence permit remains valid only if she can deal with the right kind of poison being dripped into the right vein. Remaining on the emotional surface of a character--which is Chan's automatic and perhaps only way of interpreting the script is exactly what is called for here.

Kaneshiro Takeshi is all dewy-eyed hyperactivity as That Worm, the Found part of Mr. Lost and Found. As gorgeous a male as Kelly Chan is a female, he is demanding, nosy and unable to say no to the saddest of sad cases. Those sad cases abound at his business. While the day to day operations seem to be finding misplaced mobile phones, keys and wallets there are other clients that require time and attention. One is Mr. Chu a father with either three children who works nights selling congee in order to finance the search for his wife who has left husband and family. That Worm tells him to save his money for his family but he insists on continuing the quest. Another is a little girl who brings her piggy bank to the office, seeking their services to find a duck with a red bill. If this very rare duck can be found (That Worm calls it is duck with a flat bill) then somehow money will be had for an operation for her mother who will die without it. Ting Ting, the little girl, helps her father who tries to grow perfect roses to the floral trade, his attempt obtain funding for the operation. The ducks are found--a flock of them--and the more than perfect roses bloom overnight. In both cases, one a missing wife and mother, one a gravely ill wife and mother, the viewers expectations are thwarted, a bravura piece of filmmaking by director/writer/producer Lee Chi-Ngai.

Michael Wong , as Ted, does most of his role in English, a not untypical work around for his lack of language skills. Shockingly enough, though, he also gets costumed in a kilt complete with full fly plaid, knee socks, dirk and sporan with crest. Just to make things completely absurd he is also an accomplished bagpiper, standing on a rock overlooking the sea and playing "Scotland the Brave" while a young girl in her faux-Scots outfit dances and collects tips from the tourists. It reminds one more of an organ grinder and monkey than anything having to do with the Highlands. Ted is in Scotland to bury his grandfather and to take over his apparently flourishing hotel. Even though Lam has been searching for him and flies to Scotland to be with him it is clear that there will no nuptial announcement for Kelly Chan and Michael Wong. He is a bit of a lump, a grinning idiot who is happy on the filthy deck of a ship in dry-dock, the soft fog of the Hebrides or anywhere in between.

Josie Ho and Joyce Wang are the wisecracking friends who insist that Lam start on her music career and even get married when a long time suitor asks since what the heck, you will be dead soon enough. Old pro Joe Ma and young Lee Yuen-Wu--this is her sole credit--are appropriately heartbreaking as the father and daughter who want a miracle to cure Lee's mother.

"Lost and Found" is an unashamed tearjerker and it accomplishes what Lee Chi-Ngai set out to do. It is sentimental, mawkish, wears its heart on its sleeve and demands that we take an active interest in the large and small tragedies of a disparate group of people. It isn't tragic in the classical sense; Aristotle wouldn't recognize it. But while missing all the other elements of tragedy "Lost and Found" most definitely has one essential feature. It is full of incidents that arouse "pity and fear", allowing the audience a cathartic emotional release.
Reviewer Score: 8