Cast: Eason Chan (陳奕迅), Cecilia Choi (蔡思韵), Eric Kwok (郭偉亮), Jacky Choi (蔡潔), Prudence Liew (劉美君)
Director: Steve Chan Chi Fat (陳志發)
Screenwriter: Candace Chong (莊梅岩)
I recently just finished watching ViuTV’s latest in-house produced series My Very Short Marriage (短暫的婚姻), which was a short, 5 episode series that aired for one week earlier this month. Each episode was around 30 minutes, with the last episode slightly longer – put together all 5 episodes pretty much equaled the length of a movie.
Before I go into my thoughts on the series itself, let me first backtrack a little and explain why I decided to watch this series in the first place. Without going into a long spiel about the HK television war and the licensing fiasco (since I don’t want to detract from the focus on this series), I actually have been paying attention to ViuTV’s offerings in terms of programming content, though I haven’t really been watching many of their series. The last series I watched of theirs was Margaret and David: Green Bean from last year and while I liked the series overall (the acting was stellar and aesthetics were great), I did feel it went a bit overboard with the ‘slow-burn’ feeling, which I’m pretty sure made it less appealing to most HK audiences who are not used to that style of TV series. Unfortunately for ViuTV, most of the series they produced after M&D (including that series’ subsequent installment) weren’t tremendously appealing either, though I do applaud them for being willing to explore different themes and taking the risk of producing series that are a huge departure from what mainstream HK television audiences are used to seeing (unlike TVB, whose target audiences continue to be housewives and families, ViuTV’s target audience is the younger generation). As I said earlier, though I haven’t taken the time to really watch their other series (I basically would just tune in to a few episodes here and there), I still make it a point to stay on top of all the news about their series just in case something happens to appeal to me, which in this case, it did, as I discovered this gem of a series – ViuTV’s latest offering My Very Short Marriage (from here on out, I will be using the acronym MVSM for short, since I’m lazy and don’t want to keep typing out the full name, lol).
I will be the first to admit that normally, I probably wouldn’t bother watching a series like MVSM, since 1) I’m not fond of the cast (ok, technically I didn’t even know most of the cast, as the only names I recognized were Eason, Eric Kwok, and Prudence), 2) the style of the series appeared to be very typical ViuTV, which made me think it would be pretty much the same as their other series, and 3) I knew that this was the series that ViuTV had initially ‘hyped up’ as “the musical starring Eason Chan”, making me think this would likely be a throwback to those extended music documentaries that TVB used to produce in the 80s and 90s, which normally would be a good thing for me given the ‘nostalgia’ aspect that I’m pretty big on (plus it would’ve been interesting to see whether ViuTV would produce these similar to the way TVB used to do it) -- except the problem is, of course, that I’m not a fan of Eason’s music.
So then why did I decide to give this series a chance? Simple – because I found out that the scriptwriter for this series is Candace Chong, who is one of my favorite HK playwrights. Those who don’t follow HK theater probably may not be familiar with Candace Chong – she is a renowned writer of numerous HK stage plays whose works have won numerous awards (I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about Candace’s background – those interested can Google her). MVSM is actually Candace’s first foray into writing a TV series script, so as a fan, I definitely want to support her effort. I love all the stage plays that Candace has written, so knowing that she helmed the script for this series, I had utmost confidence going into it that the script would be absolutely top notch. Production-wise, the director for this series is Steve Chan Chi Fat, whom I’m sure HK audiences recognize from the award-winning movie he directed last year, Weeds on Fire (點五步), so in that regard, I knew that this series would be different from the ‘typical ViuTV’ style. Both of those factors alone already sold me on watching this series and I was very much prepared to just ‘suck it up’ in terms of the cast as well as any possible reservations I may have had regarding the acting.
Now after watching the series, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised and delighted, as MVSM actually turned out to be a gem of a series that I enjoyed immensely! Of course, a large part of this had to do with Candace Chong’s wonderfully written script (I’ll get back to this in a bit), but I was also surprised to find that the acting was actually quite good in this as well. I know Eason hasn’t acted in anything in a long time and truth be told, I’ve never watched any of the movies he’s starred in so I can’t really judge how his acting measures up in relation to his previous works, but I will say that his portrayal of widower Galen in this series was very well done. With that said though, the one to watch in this series is really newbie actress Cecilia Choi, who pulled off an impressive performance as Malena, the conflicted housewife torn between a cheating husband (played by Eric Kwok) and a man who helps her rediscover her true self (Eason’s character Galen). There were a lot of difficult scenes in this series that required quite a bit of “inner emotion acting” (including scenes with little dialogue that relied mostly on body language and facial expressions), yet Cecilia didn’t have much problem handling these scenes in my opinion – her reactions were ‘just right’ and came across quite natural. I had never heard of Cecilia prior to this series but now I’m definitely looking her up, as I’m curious to see what other productions – if any – she has been in and what her background is.
As expected from Candace Chong, the script was awesome! Tightly written with meaningful dialogue, the script was very much in-line with the high quality of work that Candace usually produces. Candace is known for raising many social and/or political issues in her works, but in a way that provokes discussion of the topic rather than presenting a solution to the problems encountered by her characters. This was definitely the case with MVSM’s script, which at its core, was essentially an exploration of the meaning of marriage and love for the central characters in the story, but on a deeper level, it also touched on society’s attitudes toward marriage through Malena’s internal struggle of having to choose between being true to herself or sacrificing who she is deep down for the sake of her family. One of the biggest traits of Candace Chong’s scripts is its ability to invoke deep thought on societal issues and the brilliance of her writing lies in the fact that each person may have a different interpretation of it based on their own life experiences. I loved the script for this series and even now, long after having finished watching it, some of the dialogue is still in my head and I find myself still debating some of the questions raised in the series.
After a long dry spell with me practically abandoning TVB’s series due in part to the atrocious acting from their current crop of artists (including worse than past year newbies) as well as the horribly-written nonsense scripts, it’s absolutely refreshing to be able to watch an all-around high caliber series with good performances and a script / story that makes me think and reflect rather than insult my intelligence at every turn (which, annoyingly, is what TVB series have done, especially recent ones).
For those who are considering whether to watch this series or not, all I’m going to say is that this series’ style is VERY DIFFERENT from what you might be used to seeing from TVB. You definitely won’t find the “formulaic” soap opera format where everything is clearly explained and the story is tied up nice and neat in a package with a fluffy bow on top. If you’re expecting a “no brainer” type series that you can watch while doing other things and not pay much attention to, then no, this series is not for you. This one requires careful attention to the dialogue and quite a bit of thought and self-reflection afterwards.
This series was not flawless by any means (wanted to make sure that was clear, just in case…) and yes, in a sense, the series did kind of end up being a pseudo-promo tool for Eason, since he released 2 new songs that were specifically written for the series in conjunction with its airing, but to be honest, the music actually took a backseat to the story in this instance. I definitely would not call this series a “musical” (whoever marketed the series that way should be fired, lol) because the music component was really quite minimal. I may not be a fan of Eason’s, but I really couldn’t find much fault with the way the music and songs were incorporated into the series – it actually helped to enhance the series in my opinion.
Some last thoughts…I’m hoping that ViuTV continues to go down this path in the future and continue collaborating with people who really can bring quality and elevate their series to a higher level (like Candace Chong was able to do with her awesome script for this series and also Steve’s Chan excellent direction).