"In my opinion Golden Faith should be renamed "The Dumb, the Dumber, and the Dumbest". Why? Because virtually every main character in this series is stupid."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
"Lau Kum Sui Yuet" (roughly translates to The Age of Flowing Gold)
No. of episodes: 45
Gallen Lo -"Sui Yuet Dik Tong Wah" (opening theme: roughly translates to The Fairytale of the Age), Raymond Lam - "Mong Kei Seung Hoi" (interlude: roughly translates to Forget the Pain, also opening theme to Survivor's Law), Gallen Lo - "Yeung Kong Chan Lan Dik Yut Ji" (closing theme: roughly translates to The Days the Sun Shone Brightly), Gallen Lo- "Dong Ngoi Ching Jau Do Jun Tau" (interlude: roughly translates to When Love Reaches the End)
Gallen Lo Ka Leung as Ivan Ting Sin Boon (born Chung Tin Chi) Jessica Hester Hsuan as Rachel Ching Tin Lam
Deric Wan Siu Lun as Chung Sau Hong (born Chung Tin Yan)
Raymond Lam Fung as Oscar Ting Sin Hang
Michelle Yip Suen as Rain Ching Siu Yu
Myolie Wu Hang Yee as Ting Sin Yan (Yan Yan)
Lok Ying Kwan as Ting Wing Tong (Yee Suk "2nd Uncle")
Gigi Wong Sook Yee as Mrs. Ting Wing Bong ("Ah Boh", mother of Oscar and Yan Yan, foster mother of Ivan)
Tavia Yeung Yee as Kiko Chung Chui Yee
Paul Chun Pui as Ting Wing Bong
Shek Sau as Hong Pak To
Anne Heung Hoi Lam as Sabrina Kwai Lai Fu
Lau Dan as Ivan/Hong's Uncle
Ting Wing Bong is the CEO-owner of Ting Fung, a wealthy business that specializes in gold/jewelry making. The wealth, unfortunately, came from years and years of fraud, bribery, and financial mismanagement by all in Ting Fung and other triad-like associations Mr. Ting built throughout the years. Mr. Ting lives in a great big house with Mrs. Ting and their three kids, Ivan, Oscar, and Yan Yan, who is mentally challenged. Ivan and Rachel (a lawyer) begin a relationship and travel to Australia, Oscar returns from just finishing his studies in the US, and Yan Yan goes about her merry way as the most innocent character of the series.
Everything is jolly-dandy until Mr. Ting reveals that he wants to free his company of any illegal ties before he, um, takes the longest vacation ever, so to speak, and before he hands it down to his heirs. Of course, his younger brother Wing Tong (2nd uncle) is secretly ticked off about this, as is the Board of Directors, since the years of financial scams pulled by Ting Fung stuffed massive amounts of profit into their pockets. But Mr. Ting is adamant, and in his will grants Ivan virtually total power and ownership of Ting Fung. A minor wrinkle is the fact that Ivan is not actually the biological son of Mr. Ting, although their relationship resembles a biological one. However, the Ting family has no knowledge of this, and believes Ivan to be the biological son of Mr. Ting's first and deceased wife. But Ivan has always been an overly family-oriented, responsible, and filial young man, so no one has a problem with Mr. Ting's will, except of course 2nd Uncle who knows Ivan will do all that it takes to fulfill Mr. Ting's dying wish i.e. clean up Ting Fung's act. Oscar and Ivan enjoy an excellent relationship, and Oscar is initially uninterested in taking over the family business anyway, so he happily trains his dolphins until Ivan cleans up the business and hands it back to him.
Unfortunately, the road from bad to good is a rocky one, and Ivan does many wrong things that he unfortunately must do (he gets accused of murder, lies in court numerous times, etc. etc.) if he is truly make Ting Fung a clean and successful business. His secretiveness and seemingly-criminal actions cause many understandings between him and girlfriend Rachel, a morally upright lawyer who finally decides to give up the relationship. It also causes Hong, a cop, to look at Ivan constantly with daggers shooting from his eyes, since he does not believe that Ivan truly wants to free Ting Fung from illegal ties. This causes major problems because it is revealed that Hong is actually the long-lost biological younger brother of Ivan. Ivan hides this because he wants to be a good person in his younger brother's eyes, and because Hong has wanted to nail Ting Fung for a very long time.
In the meantime, Rachel's younger sister Rain also works as a cop and falls in love with Hong, but of course Hong falls in love with Rachel. Rachel believes there's no chance for her and Ivan, and so begins a relationship with Hong and Rain then keeps her feelings secret. But several months later (after Hong proposes to her) she realizes that the person she truly loves is Ivan and ends her relationship with Hong. After Mr. Ting's death, Oscar returns to help out with the business, but his business inexperience falls victim to Uncle Ting when the latter slowly but surely convinces Oscar that Ivan is planning on forever keeping ownership of Ting Fung. It is also revealed at this time that Ivan is not his blood brother, which Uncle Ting uses to convince Oscar and the rest of the Ting family that Ivan changed Mr. Ting's will to his own advantage.
Ivan's relationship with the Ting family begins to cool, and after many unsuccessful attempts to repair it, Ivan leaves the family. But yippie, Hong asks Ivan to move in with him (he has begun to accept the shock of Ivan being his blood brother) and his family, while Ivan asks Jack and Henry (respectively the Ting family's long-time family/corporate lawyer and financial consultant) to look after Oscar and Ting Fung. But of course Uncle Ting isn't done with his game yet, and supports and takes off with Oscar's idea of an investment company whose profits actually secretly go to Uncle Ting. When Ting Fung falls into financial jeopardy, Uncle Ting convinces Oscar to rob his own jewelery shop to get ahold of the insurance. He also successfully makes Oscar think that it was Ivan who was behind his kidnapping, when it was actually Uncle Ting himself who staged the scenario.
Oscar hates and hates and hates Ivan, and stages a robbery of Ting Fung again while kidnapping Ivan. Here, Oscar overhears Uncle Ting revealing all his crimes, and in shock, realizes who the true villain of this play is. Alas, Hong and co. rush to the scene and engage in a crossfire, and at the last minute Hong aims his gun at Oscar, but Ivan blocks him and takes the bullet instead. Hong, in total disbelief that he shot his own brother, faints, while Ivan goes into a coma and the whole saga unravels. Rachel returns from Australia and begs Ivan to wake up, while Hong couldn't take his guilt and now actually believes that Oscar was the one who shot Ivan. Oscar goes along with this at the trial, since he feels he must redeem for his sins. But Ivan wakes up just in time to rush to court, while he reveals that Hong was the one who shot him. Oscar gets sentenced to 5 years in jail while Uncle Ting gets sentenced to 10 years. Kiko, Oscar's girlfriend (and foster cousin of Ivan and Hong), promises that she will wait for him along with their baby. Ivan proposes to Rachel and they move to Australia together. Whoopee.
The Dumb, The Dumber, and the Dumbest
In my opinion Golden Faith should be renamed "The Dumb, the Dumber, and the Dumbest". Why? Because virtually every main character in this series is stupid. To varying levels, of course, but still have rocks for brains. When the characters are stupid, the plot becomes stupid too, not to mention exasperating. Either the characters are stupid, or they're ethically challenged. Or both.
Ivan- Many have said that this character is unrealistic, and I agree. First, he's unrealistically good. Who on earth sacrifices so much for everything? Call me pessimistic but this person doesn't exist today. Okay, let's say that it is believable that Ivan is willing to give up everything for his family, including his reputation and one true love. How unbelievable is it that no one appreciates what he does? Stupid. And Ivan himself is stupid. Why not look for hard evidence of how evil and vile Uncle Ting was to show to Oscar? If he had done it earlier nothing would have happened, or at least, Oscar would have been more careful and he would have saved himself from a lot of misery. Totally dumb.
Rachel- I admire her character for still loving Ivan even after all the misunderstandings that he had committed crimes. But she's stupid too. I did not believe for one second that she didn't know she still loved Ivan even after beginning a relationship with Hong. And poor Hong, getting dumped right after proposing and everything. Didn't that guy get duped?! I mean, ouch, that must have hurt. Like I said, I didn't believe at all that she didn't know she had always been in love with Ivan and to wait that long to shoo Hong away was cruel. So she's ethically challenged.
Mrs. Ting- Dumb. Totally dumb. Even before Mr. Ting died she knew of how evil and and manipulative Uncle Ting was. Why didn't she keep a closer eye on the business and on Oscar? I mean, she did it later. And to not realize how good Ivan was and go along with Uncle Ting's plan. Stupid. Stupid woman.
Oscar- Well of course the dumbest character of the series. I was screaming bloody murder during every episode at this guy's stupidity. Are you THAT BLIND!? Uncle Ting was using you all along, for god's sake! He was so dumb for not believing a word of Ivan, who, although not his biological brother, shared a warm and close relationship for practically his whole life! And seriously, robbing your own company to get insurance? Stupid and ethically challenged. Not to mention Oscar was also immature. Get the girl you actually love pregnant, then insult her in front of her foster brother because you can't stand him. Congratulations, Oscar. You get the Everyone Laughs at You Award.
Hong- Dumb for actually believing that Rachel loved him at all. Dumb, dumb dumb. But a pitiful dumb I guess.
Rain- Dumb for not fighting for Hong when she knew that Rachel loved Ivan all along.
Uncle Ting- Well we all know he was ethically challenged, having morals equivalent of a turtle's. But could you tell he was stupid too? Oh yes he was. What on earth possessed this jerk when he decided to use the same people he used to kidnap Oscar to kidnap Ivan too? I mean, seriously, I was laughing when Oscar overheard him talking to the guy he recognized kidnapped him too.
Now that we know how dumb everyone was, let's move on to the performances
Evaluation of the Cast & Performances
Gallen Lo as Ivan
An excellent casting choice as The Ultimate Good Guy. Gallen Lo has always been one of the best dramatic actors, unafraid to bare his soul on the screen. His Ivan achieves sympathy from the audience (and no, not because of just his stupidity) and Gallen Lo succeeded in carrying the series on his shoulders. Gallen Lo does a terrific job revealing Ivan's constant emotional struggles. I'd like to see him in a supporting role for once and see how he fares. He has very believable chemistry with Jessica Hsuan (which no doubt fueled rumours about a real-life affair and that Jessica was the reason behind his marriage troubles). A fine actor and this series proves it. You know what I found fascinating about his character Ivan despite how unrealistic he was? It was Rachel's comment that Ivan is an excellent man, but a terrible lover. He constantly puts family and friends above his love life, and in this way whoever is with him must deal with this suffering and inferiority.
Jessica Hsuan as Rachel
This actress is quickly becoming a Flora Chan in my eyes, and that isn't a compliment. What I mean is that I am getting utterly bored and exasperated at the same role over and over and over again. Her only admirable work in my opinion was DIF 4, and since then she has deteriorated and become redundant and repetitive, taking on identical characters in every series. Despite the fact that she and Gallen Lo make quite a good couple, she doesn't really impress me here with her portrayal of Rachel. Jessica Hsuan does look chic in her business suit, but she's way too stiff and unbelievable as a professional lawyer. Redeeming things is her performance in the last 2 episodes, where her expressions actually seemed insightful and not just stubborn-stubborn-tight. BUT... 2 episodes of engaging acting do not make up for the other 43. And is it just me or is she starting to look like a mouse?
Deric Wan as Hong
A solid but not breakthrough performance. I thought he did a great job playing the witty and sweet-talking Hong, despite the fact that the character reminds me of someone I can't stand in real life because I'm generally not fond of smooth talkers. Up until the final episode, though, I wished that I could cut that annoying flick of hair that hung in front of his face. He did a good job showing his character's unfailing love for Rachel and his performance in the courtroom in the final episode was commendable, but Deric Wan pales compared to Gallen Lo in this series. But boy, did I feel sorry for Hong. The whole time he runs around with Rachel assuming the first position in his heart, and she just treated him like dirt.
Raymond Lam as Oscar
My favourite relatively new newcomer since his performance in A Step into the Past. I couldn't get over his character's stupidity but Raymond Lam once again proves his talent as the good-gone-evil-gone-good Oscar. From his happy-go-lucky portrayal of Oscar to the villainous and vengeful Oscar, to the maniacal shooting scene at the end, and to the final remorseful portrayal of his character, the actor hit the nail. The scenes between him and Gallen Lo were especially good, but I do wish that this guy never agrees to play such a dumb role again.
On the Other Performances
Michelle Yip is a Jessica-in-the-making. Aside from the fact that their physical resemblance is quite scary (they do look like real-life sisters and from certain angles even look identical), Michelle Yip is too wooden in here, even though she doesn't have much to work with in the first place. Call me cruel but I was laughing during the scene while she was running on the street and crying after hearing Hong profess his love for Rachel. You know how some actors are so funny in a supposedly dramatic and serious/tragic scene? Michelle Yip is one of those. Her almost vacant stare in half of the series bored me to tears.
As for Anne Heung, I can't get over my frustration about her voice. She was so whiny in here "Oh, Ivan" this and "Oh, Ivan" that. As elegant and intelligent as she is in real life, she definitely doesn't have what it takes to be an actress and I'm not expecting much improvement from her either, although she's more convincing as a professional than Jessica is. Tavia Yeung annoyed me to no end with her performance as Kiko in the beginning, and who else thought that she overacted in the scene when she almost got run over after hearing Oscar's hurtful words?
The villains' performances were nothing special except maybe Shek Sau who was quite convincing and intimidating as Hong Pak To. Uncle Ting's wife was actually comic as the partner-in-crime, but the most hilariously cartoonish villain award definitely goes to the actor who played Chicken Cheung in the very beginning (don't remember his name...he played Mr. Tam in Let's Face It). His maniacal laugh is reminiscent of those little-kids shows where you could tell exactly who the bad guy was because he'd laugh with his mouth gaping wide "HAAAA HAAAA HAAAAA!!!".
I actually feel that the ke-le-fe/supporting performances (and none of the ones mentioned above) were the best of this series. Gigi Wong was ladylike and motherly as Mrs. Ting, and Hui Chiu Hong's Henry was an approachable friend. The actor who played Jack was absolutely terrific! Witty, professional, and brilliantly intelligent at the same time. However, I feel that the most memorable performance of this series was given by Myolie Wu as the mentally disabled Yan Yan. Such an insightful and genuine performance and your heart just goes out to this character. She represents all that we hope for and all that we dread. We all want to be forever pure, innocent, and happy with a simple life, yet we still want to grow up and experience new things without feeling like everyone wants to protect us. Myolie Wu encapsulated this in her portrayal of Yan Yan, she truly deserved the Most Improved Award at the TVB Awards that year. I think that the fact that she's not the most beautiful actress works in a positive way for her because she doesn't have to be attached to the "flower vase" character that many HK Beauty Pageant Contestants suffer from playing. Myolie is convincing as a professional (Survivor's Law), as a cute and charming younger sister (Family Man), as an outgoing good-hearted girl (Triumph in the Skies), and here even as a mentally challenged character. A marvelous performance from Myolie here, and believe me when I say that she's going to go a long way in Hong Kong's acting field.
The scenes in Australia with Jessica and Gallen were quite well done with lovely backgrounds. The series also has a nice theme song despite being slightly overused in the background soundtrack. The acting from Gallen Lo, Raymond Lam, Deric Wan, the actor who played Jack, and Myolie Wu is solid. The brotherly relationship between Ivan and Hong and between Ivan and Oscar was also portrayed very well, while Paul Chun Pui turns in the usually fittingly translucent performance as Mr. Ting.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
Yes, the series is star-studded. But I'd only recommend watching it if you're a die hard fan of the actors/actresses. The plot is frustrating as ever and the ending is a bit far-fetched. If you hated corporate dramas such as At the Threshold of an Era or Secret of the Heart, I'd suggest staying away. Golden Faith is by far worse than those.