2010 may still be in its first quarter, but it already seems certain that Echoes of the Rainbow (2010) will remain as one of the all time highlights of Hong Kong cinema. Its touching story, wonderful soundtrack and superb acting have already been praised worldwide, winning four of this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards (‘Best Actor’, ‘Best New Performer’, ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Song’) and making Echoes the first Hong Kong film to win a ‘Crystal Bear’ at the 60th Berlin Film Festival.
Director Alex Law has put together a successful mix of familiar faces and new blood. The cast features ex-comedian Sandra Ng Kwan Yue as witty, bargain-master Mrs Law and Simon Yam as her husband Mr Law (who can also be found in Bodyguards and Assassins ), another multiple winner at this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards.
One of the first elements to grab the attention is the perspective in which the story is told – through the naïve eyes of an eight-year-old boy. His charmingly childish and mischievous behavior and the situations this creates bring a fresh and light-hearted touch to the film.
The first half of the film creates a somewhat romanticised vision, where the boy’s family are not rich, but hard-working and happy; where the little boy looks up to his ‘straight-A’ athletic brother Desmond, with whom he shares a close bond. Comic scenes with ‘little Big Ears’ stealing a glow-in-the-dark figurine and wearing an aquarium on his head are intercut with endearing moments of brotherly love and mutual respect abounds.
The overly-stressed image of the ‘perfect son’ quickly turns however, as dramatic events emerge in the narrative. The ‘good times’, as they’re called in the film, touch on issues such as the relevance of social class to relationships and the perception that the ‘man’ of the family has to be richer and more successful. However, the film really starts to deliver its central message, with the revelation of Desmond’s illness.
All-the-more supporting to this traumatic shift in the film is the use of the song “I Wanna be Free” (Desmond’s favourite) which is continually repeated throughout the film and becomes a symbolic of both his young love and for his dreams for what seemed like a promising future.
Audiences will be well-acquainted with the conventional melodrama utilized in Echoes of the Rainbow; yet what sets this film aside is the perspective of the narrative. Director Alex Law leads the viewer through every aspect of the tragedy – from poverty to the impact it has on every individual character – via the eyes of a child who is unable to truly understand what’s happening. Although in no way original, this method proves to be extremely successful.