Film Review: Chuando Tan Turns Up the Heat for Debut Film Role in ‘Precious Is The Night’ 《今宵多珍重》
A 30-something doctor is caught in a web of deceit, sex, and lies. The murder drama, set in 1960’s Singapore, revolves around the doctor making house calls to a mysterious and wealthy family.
Director: Wayne Peng
Cast: Chuando Tan, Nanyeli, Chen Yixin, Chang Tsu-Lei, Xiang Yun, Tay Ping Hui
Country: Taiwan, Singapore
Runtime: 90 minutes
In 2017, Chuando Tan made headlines for looking like he’s in his 20s when he is actually already in his 50s. This year, the model takes on his first feature film role as a playboy doctor in Precious Is The Night 《今宵多珍重》. The film is a feast for the eyes for those who appreciate Tan’s looks, but struggles at times with its storytelling.
The story takes place in 1969. We meet an unnamed writer (Chuando Tan) who sees a man in the newspaper who looks exactly like him. The man is Doctor Tan, a family physician caught in the middle of a murder case involving the wealthy family he attends to. The writer knows that he and Doctor Tan are not the same person, yet they both share the same face. Intrigued, the writer sets out to put the pieces of the murder mystery together while narrating his interpretation of it to us.
We get to slowly explore the characters embroiled in the murder — a wealthy but lonely mistress named Ku Yang (Nanyeli), her two servants Bi Xia (Chang Tsu-Lei) and Bao Cui (Chen Yixin), the aforementioned Doctor Tan (Chuando Tan), and the Old Master (Tay Ping Hui) and his wife (Xiang Yun).
It is quickly evident that all of these deeply flawed characters are hiding their own motives. As we watch them interact with each other, we learn more about their personalities and what each character is trying to achieve for themself. The viewers are caught between sympathising with the characters and being disgusted by the moral ambiguity of their actions. Whether it be satisfying lustful temptations, betraying others behind their backs, conspiring with the enemy, or simply lying through their teeth, each character seems to be no less guilty than the rest. It constantly puts the question of “do the ends justify the means?” in the minds of viewers.
Since the film is narrated by the writer, all we know of the story is all that the writer is able to tell us. As the writer immerses himself deeper and deeper into his story, it seems as though he himself can no longer discern reality anymore. The audience is taken on this downward spiral together with the narrator and is left questioning when we can trust the writer. It becomes unclear at some points what is fact and what is fiction.
Because of the complexity of its characters, the movie leaves many unanswered questions. There are loose ends that appear late into the movie that are never tied up later on. Some plot points are brought up once and then never mentioned again. This felt confusing and messy, as though the film was trying to achieve more than it could in its run time.
At just 90 minutes long, the film feels too long yet too short at the same time. The pacing is too uneven to wrap up its character arcs or explore some of the new themes it brings up closer to the end. As a result, character development feels a little rushed at moments, leaving gaping holes in the remaining runtime that leave the audience feeling like something is lacking. Yet the murder mystery is also very self-contained and involves few characters outside of the family, thus at times the story can feel like it is dragging on longer than it needs to for a family affair.
Perhaps the film is aware that its trump card is still Chuando Tan’s performance. It cuts out a considerable amount of time to let us simply gaze at him. From scenes of him checking himself out in a mirror while adjusting his well-fitted suit, to long slowed-down shots of him in the shower. Tan is undoubtedly a hunk of a man, and maybe the film hopes his glistening abs and sharp jawline can distract us from the plot holes in the story.
The film’s wardrobe reflects the ideas of the era when western culture was seen as more elite. Doctor Tan’s western suit is a display of his status and foreign education. The film is set almost entirely within the walls of Ku Yang’s mansion which, from the outside, looks more like a block of smaller apartments. The interior feels almost a little uncomfortable but perhaps the drab design is meant to mirror the desolate and depressed disposition of its residents. Bi Xia and Bao Cui can also be seen trekking up and down several flights of stairs to reach Ku Yang’s room, signifying a distance between the servants and the lady of the house.
If indulging in eye candy can make for a better cinematic experience for you, perhaps you may enjoy Precious Is The Night. But for those of us who need something more, at least Chuando Tan’s pretty face is still a welcome addition. For his debut performance, it is definitely commendable and he is not outshined by the veterans alongside him.
Precious Is The Night opens in cinemas 29 April exclusively at Cathay Cineplexes.