Review: Blue Island

Written and directed by Tze Woon Chan, exploring the state of depression among the current citizens on Hong Kong as China consolidates its power over the metropolis.

The choice of Tze Woon Chan to explore the past and present of social activists by integrating them through dramatic recreations was a fantastic idea. Asking today’s youth pushing for change to use those feelings and experiences to represent the fight of those that came before them creates a wonderful symmetry. However, the recreations aren’t having the biggest impact that they have the potential for, they’re used sporadically and the path that the film takes doesn’t quite give them the room to illustrate things more clearly. It does also show the difficulty that the film has with viewers who go in with no prior knowledge may struggle to follow along as keenly. It misses out on establishing first and foremost the key facts of what they’re fighting for, instead jumping straight into the different subjects involved.

However, it does build a remarkably strong atmosphere almost immediately. There’s a true weight and depth to its style which does the serious nature of its issue real justice. It holds a sincere level of emotion, watching the older generation see the youth of today struggling with the same issues they fought so hard for is a heart-wrenching experience. It’s hard to even imagine how they must feel in seeing a traumatic history repeat itself, to feel like progress is being made with one step forward and two steps back. It creates a cutting air of melancholy, you can feel the lingering impact these harsh experiences have had on both generations. How it has inescapably stuck with those who’ve already been through it and how it is weighing heavy on those in the midst of it.

At times it does feel messy, it doesn’t always follow a clear path as there’s a lot of back and forth. The story is mostly there, it’s just not in the most effective order to be concise and even further deepen its emotion and grasp on the audience. There’s undoubtedly a clear passion for the issue told through Tze Woon Chan’s filmmaking and it is very compelling material, but it struggles to make a consistent pacing. It then chooses an unusual ending which is extremely drawn out, it sends a very clear message but at the same time loses its effectiveness, continuing after its point has already been made.

Blue Island has a captivating atmosphere which is full of depth and emotion. It captures both the current struggle and how the past still haunts those who’ve been fighting for decades. It creates a heart-breaking air of melancholy and pain, capturing the unending injustice faced by all its subjects. There are a lot of great choices made in telling this story, especially in how creative it is, but they’re not all reaching their full potential, however it does show an impressive amount of talent.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2022

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