Written by: Hannah Tran | December 15th, 2020
My Prince Edward (Norris Wong, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
The title of writer/director Norris Wong’s film My Prince Edward carries two meanings. On the one hand, it is the name of the place where Fong, a twenty-something woman living in Hong Kong, works in a wedding-themed shopping mall. On the other, it references the name of her controlling and manipulative soon-to-be fiancé. Both of these represent her suffocating struggle for a piece of freedom she doesn’t believe she is entitled to. As Fong tries to hide and finalize a divorce for a sham marriage carried out years before, My Prince Edward presents an enlightening narrative about the struggles for liberty in present-day Hong Kong, as well as a delicate look at one’s personal search for independence.
My Prince Edward sometimes almost feels like a horror film, providing an anxious examination of the social conventions that it itself seems to be terrified of. The claustrophobic production design, muted look and smart direction fully embody this nightmare. While it may not ultimately feel like a complete or exceptionally daring thought, the questions that it prods are unquestionably important and are handled in a way that connects them to a universal struggle and makes them feel just that.
Where it occasionally falters is instead in the case of the characters. Although elevated by the sensitive, complex performances of lead actors Stephy Tang (Anniversary) and Chu Pak-Hon (A Spice for Life), they can at times feel frustratingly one-dimensional. The former’s general passivity is a difficult trait to work with when it belongs to the protagonist. The latter often falls into cartoonish depictions of anger and jealousy that, while completely rooted in reality, often are expressed in dialogue that feels unrealistic.
That is not to say, however, that the writing is bad. In fact, the way the story is able to present such a bold message through such understated means is the most fascinating facet of the film. The setup is simple, subtle and never strays from its basis in realism. The lack of definitive conclusion and narrative conveniences only adds to the resemblance between this and documentary filmmaking. And although it may be subtle, its message is striking. At once both personal and political, My Prince Edward is a powerful deconstruction of the harmful conventions and roles we feel pressured to uphold, providing a deep understanding into the notions of control and freedom that can be felt deeply within, and far beyond, Hong Kong.