ALWAYS BE WITH YOU (2017) review


Always Be With You may be a somewhat clumsy title, but it’s still better than Troublesome Night 20, which is nevertheless what this Herman Yau film is. Louis Koo was in seven of these late-nineties, early-naughties horror films that often crossed narratives and mixed some comedy into the mildly tense supernatural goings-on. Now he’s back, surrounded with a cast of newcomers to the franchise (except Law Lan, who was in 17 of the previous installments). A handful of people are brought together by fate on the night of a car accident that claims several lives: there’s a cab driver (Julian Cheung), drunk after learning he is terminally ill, a couple of cops (Louis Koo and Charmaine Sheh), their exorcist auntie (Law Lan) a shopkeeper and his wife (Lam Suet and Kingdom Yuen), a young, freshly-engaged couple (Charlene Choi and Alex Lam), and a few more. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the ones who survived are haunted by those who died, and yet those who died are not necessarily the ones we think.

Herman Yau’s very prolific creativity has always translated into a very uneven output, and so it isn’t so surprising that, a few months after the rock-solid thriller Shock Wave, Always Be With You is a risible misfire. A loose narrative feebly trying to criss-cross rote supernatural stories, a few instances of cringe-worthy comedy (including the trademark “Louis Koo fake-sobbing”) and consistently failed attempts at poignancy, all hinge upon a key accident scene that is cartoonish and poorly-executed. An incredibly limp twist is dished out in the final minutes, leading to a hilariously “emotional” coda where one character flies away in the sky while another tries first to conjure a smile and then to commit suicide (it has to be seen to be believed). Lam Ka Tung is quite good as seedy funeral home employee, but the rest of the solid cast is either squandered (Louis Koo seems to understand the film is not worth an acting sweat, while Julian Cheung gets the most interesting role but not much screen time and even less of an arc) or strangely tone-deaf (Charlene Choi seems to have reverted back to her early-naughties acting style, Charmaine Sheh treats the film as her audition tape to get hired for General Hospital).

Long Story Short: Visually flat, narratively loose, and never achieving a tenth of the poignancy it seems to aim for, Always Be With You does elicit a few laughs, but never intentionally. *


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