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Written by Bridget Au


"There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental illnesses and while this series teaches us what the different disabilities are called, it didn’t quite address the societal stigma"





SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Chinese Title
“Yan Sum Kai Ma” (roughly translates to deciphering the human heart)

Released In
2009

No. of episodes
20

Theme song
Juno Mak

Cast
Alex Fong as Ko Lap Yan
Kate Tsui as Man Yee (Monkey)
Cheung Chi Kwong as Dr. Lin
Raymond Wong as Chun
Vivian Yeo as Ka Bik
Supporting Cast
Ellesmere Choi
Michelle Chan
Ngok Wah
Lee Kwok Lun
Suki Tsui
Yoyo Chen
Hung Tin Ming

Foreword
May not have the A-list cast and media buy, but a well-paced plot, intriguing subject matter, and better-than-expected performances make A Great Way to Care much better than say… Healing Hands. One of the better series of 2009.

Review
A Great Way to Care was reportedly frozen due to the broadcast of Sweetness in the Salt after the success of Rosy Business, and I have to say, TVB could have picked some other series to banish to the warehouse. A B-list cast, previously unexplored territory and a May-December romance usually spells doom for a TVB series but in this case, things work out just fine and the result is an affecting, accomplished little drama.

Looking for a Miss HK to don a fat suit in TVB might have been a ridiculous thought prior to this series, but thanks to the brave Vivian Yeo, look no further. I’ve never liked Vivian in the past but she gives a winning performance as Ka Bik: sweet, cute, and genuinely likeable and she had good chemistry with Raymond Wong as well. She is definitely one of the highlights of this series.

I like Monkey because she is ballsy, good-hearted, and tough. She makes an interesting and I would say fantastic couple with Dr. Ko, and not just because of their age difference. I like how they tell each other off half the time, but beneath the no-holds-barred “Shut your mouth!”, there’s a genuine mutual respect between them. Monkey, for example, calls Dr. Ko ‘Ko Yan’ (the first and last character of his Chinese name which also translates to something like a deity-type expert, someone you go to for advice). I also like how the growth from mutual respect to mutual love is portrayed realistically.

While questionably talented, I’ve always suspected Kate Tsui had this untapped potential to play a total psychopath (she’s got those “I’m gonna kill you” eyes) and AGWTC gives her an opportunity to portray a schizophrenic girl. Unfortunately, she only gets to play that for a total of 2 episodes. She was downright terrifying in those sleepwalker scenes. If I worked in that hospital I would have believed she was guilty for murdering that guy too! I like her as the gutsy Monkey because she seems similar to Kate Tsui’s real-life personality, but otherwise her performance is just adequate.

Alex Fong, Cheung Chi Kwong, and Raymond Wong would probably top my list as the least likely casting choices for a trio of good buddies, but they have this oddball chemistry that works and brings back memories of the good-old TVB camaraderie days such as the Bobby / William / Cheung / Michael quad of Files of Justice. They also each excel at their role. Raymond is consistently a B-liner, but his performance as the unambitious, low-tension Chun was enjoyable and entertaining to watch.

Cheung has always been one of TVB’s dependable secondary actors and this series is no exception. While he doesn’t look like a doctor per se, he does convince as the research / medical journal writer type and his portrayal of the filial son, good father, and even better husband is agreeable though underwhelming.

At first, I did not know what to think of Alex Fong as the mouthy, sarcastic but very bright Dr. Ko. I thought he looked convincing as a doctor, although age-wise he is a bit too old since Dr. Ko is supposedly only 34 (which makes no sense given his supposed breadth of experience). Alex usually strikes me as oh-so-serious, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. His deadpan delivery of Dr. Ko’s acid wit and make-no-mistake instructions to the trainees at the hospital were hilarious. An excellent performance – who would’ve thunk? He’s got chemistry with Kate too. Their tearful breakup scene was one of the best acted since the Fei / Quin breakup from Detective Investigation Files IV.

Pierre Ngo was fantastic in his cameo performance as the religious cult leader in the earlier part of the series. Yoyo Chen continues to impress in her secondary roles. With a bit of voice training she can probably be one of the next fa dans along with Vivian Yeo. Lee Kwok Lun was also great in his role as the wimpy older brother to Dr. Ko.

Michelle Chan delivers one of the weaker performances and I find her contrite, somewhat manufactured, and even irritating as Dr. Lin’s wife. Maybe she should stick with hosting. Suet Lei was even worse; she is one of the few veterans who you can always count on for a terrible performance. Ngok Wah wasn’t too much better as his voice tends to be monotone.

This series has some more rough spots. While well-intentioned in its goal to raise awareness about mental disabilities, like many TVB profession series, they simplify matters to the point of ridicule. Mental illnesses are complex. They require a hefty dose of research and investigation into one’s background and circumstance, and still are very much misunderstood by your Average Joe on the street. But nope, one conversation with these super doctors and they’re diagnosed. Another 2-3 conversations and they’re cured! Isn’t TVB great?!

I also thought this series didn’t make full use of the opportunity to dispel the myth that people who have mental disabilities are just “crazy”. There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental illnesses and while this series teaches us what the different disabilities are called, it didn’t quite address the societal stigma. It’s also bizarre how involved Dr. Ko gets in the investigation of the cases, to the extent where it begins to seem as if the cops don’t do anything and just wait on Dr. Ko to enlighten them as to who the real culprit is (shades of The Mysteries of Love – yikes). But I should remind myself that this is TVB, and not everything needs to make sense.

To Watch or Not To Watch
Recommended as one of the underrated efforts of 2009. A pleasant surprise.

Rating
4/5



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1 comments:

  1. Given that this series is only 20 episodes long, it's hard to deal with the cases extensively, so, I'll give them a pass when it comes to their simplification of the mental illness issue. They want to combine crime and mental illness some more. Even less time to deal extensively.

    I lump 'A Great Way to Care' with other crime dramas.

    FH1 & 2 - Solving crime using forensic science
    MOL - Solving crime using science
    D.I.E1 and 2 - Solving crime using sixth sense
    EMYM - Solving crime by studying body language
    AGWY - Solving crime using psychology

    But, as a whole, this is an enjoyable drama.

    Most interesting is Pierre's case. I always felt it's such a waste when I watch crime drama and see all these geniuses turn to crime because of some personal hangups. Pierre's character can do a lot to benefit society and turn out to a great man if only his heart is in the right place.

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