FATAL VISIT (2020) short review

Directed by Calvin Poon, based on Candace Chong’s acclaimed play Murder in San Jose and adapted for the big screen by Philip Yung, the long-delayed Fatal Visit (it was shot in 2017) follows Ling (Sammi Cheng), a Hong Kong expatriate in the quiet outskirts of San Jose, California. Living in a villa by a sun-drenched lake, doted upon by her husband, businessman Tang (Tong Dawei) and with a baby on the way, her life, at a quick glance, seems idyllic. But there is much turmoil under the surface, as her childhood friend Yanny (Charlene Choi, with a normal-length neck despite what the above poster suggests), a broke dancer visiting from Hong Kong after a painful breakup, soon discovers. Tang’s business venture is failing to get off the ground, and he is prone to angry outbursts, while Ling seems haunted by her past, specifically her relationship to her abusive ex-husband (Dominic Lam). It would have taken a bit more narrative and visual dexterity than what journeyman Calvin Poon can manage, to make Fatal Visit‘s surfeit of dark secrets, hand-wringing and dramatic reveals shocking and affecting instead of passably pulpy and painfully pedestrian. It doesn’t help that Charlene Choi’s ingenue act (now in its 20th year of existence, no less) and Tong Dawei’s non-threatening presence (he needs strong direction for his baby face to be well used against type) severely unbalance the dark central triangle they form with a superb Sammi Cheng, both poignant and unsettling, achieving in her performance the very balance the film fails to reach. **