“Kuet Jak Lam Lui”
No. of episodes
If there’s one lesson that L’escargot teaches, it’s that life sucks. I think I need to watch some fluffy Taiwanese / Korean romcoms after this, because even though this series was an insightful, realistic portrayal of everyday life and relationships, it was also downright depressing.
I wanted to like this series, and I did… until the ending happened. For once I wanted the predictable, happy ending or the poetic justice ending, but instead the ending here was the worst case scenario for me.
It is easy to get emotionally involved in this series because it had a solid, promising premise with dramatic potential. Thematically, the family struggles over their home and their complex relationships really hit home for me, and I suspect, for a lot of the audience as well. Definitely one of TVB’s better series recently.
Lok is probably one of TVB’s most baffling characters. A lot of it is the writing’s fault, as the scriptwriter seemed reluctant to make Lok into a full-on villain / mistress hell-bent on revenge against Dai Ding. My take on Lok is that she had a crush on Jim, didn’t really know and wasn’t strong enough to act against it, which resulted in the cheating. After she cheated, she realized that Dai Ding was the one she truly loved, which explained the immense guilt and the bathtub scene, which was a strong reflection of the guilt. A big part of the guilt too was that she felt she disappointed her family, especially her older brother given the values she was raised with, which explains the heart-wrenching scene of him finding out and slapping her.
What is confusing is everything that happens with her character afterwards. It was hard to tell whether Lok ever really fell in love with Jim. If she wasn’t, why did she accept the necklace from him? If she was, how come Lok didn’t once question Jim’s love for her given that he was married until the third-last episode? Unlike Dai Ding who wooed Joyce for revenge, it didn’t look like Lok wanted to take revenge at all. Sure, she wore the necklace once to make Dai Ding mad, but she admitted that to Jim and that act could hardly have been for revenge because it was done in a moment of anger and was also provoked. The nail in the inconsistency coffin was the confrontation scene between her and Jim’s wife. Lok’s response to the accusation was “I’m not the one who isn’t leaving him alone, he is the one who won’t leave me alone… I’ve told him to leave me alone”. Um, she never actually really rejected Jim, unless you count smashing the dollhouse that he gave her – and even then, she went back and apologized. She lets him whisk her away to a private island, she dines with him, she even invited him to her house for coffee, fully knowing his feelings for her. She never told Jim “you are married, I don’t love you, stop bothering me” until the series was almost over and she realized it was DD that she loves. Yet, two episodes before that, she declared that she loved Jim? A few episodes later, she decides it’s Dai Ding that she really loves. I don’t know about you, but I was like “what da eff?!” One can argue that she was so heartbroken over her breakup with Dai Ding that her feelings were all over the place, but the pacing was so off in this series that even that argument is hard to defend.
It’s also hard to believe that Lok, who is supposedly someone who was raised with integrity (albeit committed a dire mistake in cheating against her fiancé, but at least she owned up to it in one of the most honest scenes with her older brother) would have willingly become a participant – even a passive one – in an affair. Even if she was confused or heartbroken, even if she really loved Jim. It would have been more logical and interesting to watch Lok had become more of a self-loathing character, launching herself into an affair with Jim, not for revenge against Dai Ding but because the guilt ate away at her. But instead, the writer didn’t decide what to do with the character until the last episode, so none of the dots connect properly. That is one of the biggest problems of this drama.
Dai Ding started off as one of my favourite characters but quickly evolved into a jerk. I did not like the way he basically toyed with Joyce’s heart, even though she knew what he was doing and was willing to go along with it. I know a few fellow reviewers who disagree with me, but my interpretation of him was that it was Lok, it had been Lok, and it will always be Lok that he loves. Maybe eventually he would grow feelings or even fall in love with Joyce, but even in the last episode I feel he still loved Lok. To me, Joyce would always be second choice. Yeah, I know that rhymes. I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it. That rhymes too.
Anyway, to me Dai Ding and Lok spent a lot of the time confusing love with gratitude, and even in the end when they realized their true love, they were both too weak to try and make it work. Neither of them were persistent enough to try and salvage their relationship, and too much hurt had happened between them, which I guess is the only part that makes sense with their love story. But if that was the case, then why did Dai Ding end up with Joyce? Both DD and Lok should have ended up alone.
And that’s why the ending was depressing to me. Lok ends up alone, even though from beginning to end DD and she were truly in love and all was revealed and forgiven at the end. Dai Ding ends up with Joyce, which was definitely the head-scratcher. Even when they started dating, DD had told Joyce “I’m not over Lok, but let’s try this and maybe I’ll forget about her”. And they end up together!? What the f-ck?! Jim ends up back with the wife, but I saw it more as gratitude for saving his life, not out of love. If Lok hadn’t completely rejected him near the end of the series (and maybe if he wasn’t in jail), I don’t believe for a second that Jim would have given up on her. In the last episode, Jim never told his wife he loved her. He only thanked her for being by his side the whole time and that she was the one who treated the best. That’s not love, that’s gratitude.
Both Joyce and Jim’s wife were second choices to Lok. In a depressing way, that’s a pretty accurate portrayal of reality – so many times people settle or go with second choice because they can’t be with their first choice, or they desire companionship and stability so they end up with someone they may not passionately love, but still care about. I’m a very all or nothing type of girl. It’s first choice for me, or I would rather be alone. Is that an idealistic view on love? Maybe. But that is my view and that’s why this series – especially the ending – bothers me.
For awhile, Jim was another character who I couldn’t figure out. It’s not like his wife is some socialite daughter, she was just some former actress and the series suggests that they initially married for love because at the time Jim wasn’t wealthy yet. So if Jim was that much in love with Lok, then why not just divorce the wife and marry Lok? To put it bluntly, it’s not like he needed the marriage and he didn’t seem in love with the wife anymore at all (despite what he says about being able to love two women at one time; I didn’t believe his statement – Jim just stayed in the marriage because Lok never accepted him).
Besides, if the argument was that too much hurt happened between Lok and DD for them to reconcile, why doesn’t this logic apply to Jim and Man Wah? Jim cheated as well; he is just as guilty as Lok for breaking a long-time commitment, and arguably worse because he didn’t just break an engagement, he broke a marriage. Every single one of them should have ended up alone. Yes, I know I’m a drama queen. Like I said, it’s all or nothing for me.
Wing and King (whose name is hilarious – one of the funniest scenes in the series was her introducing herself “Hello, I’m Book King” and Wing replies “What? I don’t have a booking”) were almost cartoonish in a sea of serious characters. Their story was also much too rushed and pretty much acted as filler to the main plot.
On was a very realistic portrayal of the big brother in Asian culture and reminds me a lot of one of my friends who is also the oldest in a family with four children. In fact it was kind of disturbing how realistic the Kwan family is.
Did Ron Ng go on some acting course recently or something? Because that 10-minute scene post-breakup was probably the finest acting moment of his entire career. Unfortunately, the rest of his performance leaves much to be desired. He’s his usual wooden self – not angry or vengeful enough in his scenes opposite Michael Tse, not mean enough in his insults toward Linda. Maybe he was just possessed during the post-breakup scene. However, he does make a pretty young couple with Linda. I won’t lie. I could hardly bear to watch the couple get broken up the way they did (even though I knew that was going to happen) because something about their relationship hits me personally. Their relationship was sincere, lovely, and real in the sense that the two were the only ones each other had ever known and loved since youth, so the fact that they were torn apart was a tragedy of Greek proportions for me (the ending, the ending… BAAHHHH). You know, the last episode where DD finds out Lok is leaving overseas? For once, I was waiting for the classic airport-chase-reunion-hug scene. And you know what? TVB didn’t give it to me. What did I ever do you to you, TVB?! I’ve stuck with you through thick and thin, and the one time I want the airport scene, you don’t give it to me?! I barely stopped from crying myself silly.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Ron. So he’s the usual Ron in this series, except for the post-breakup scene. I would consider his performance ‘mediocre plus’.
Linda Chung is my favourite young TVB actress, bar none. I’ve seen every single one of her performances but it was A Journey Called Life that made me a true fan. That performance not only trumped everything she ever did, but also demonstrated that she has the most raw acting talent out of most, if not all, of the fadans acting today. Granted, she got a very well-written character in Journey, but it was Linda who really breathed life into the character. She gets an imperfect character in L’escargot, but manages to do the most with her character in the first half of the series. The terror when she realizes her older brother found out about her cheating, the way she looked at the dollhouse when Jim first gave it to her, her dejection when she sees DD with Joyce – all great acting moments. Her scenes with Michael Miu were also enjoyable to watch. Linda tends to have chemistry with most of her male co-stars, and she is believable in Lok’s respect and love for her older brother and sister-in-law.
Unfortunately, after Lok’s cheating, Linda’s performance becomes as inconsistent as her character. For example, why was she smiling so happily in the star-watching segment? This isn’t Meteor Garden where Dao Ming Si is giving you a shooting star necklace and professing his undying love. Lok was supposedly at the lowest of the low at this point of the drama. Even if she were to smile, it should have been a reluctant smile. Same with the sunset-watching on the island. Overall, not her best performance, but not her worst either.
Sonija Kwok is robotic here. She has two problems in this series. Her face doesn’t register emotion and her voice is also automaton. Make sure your fast-forward button works, especially for her scenes with the other robot actor (the guy who plays her boss).
Michael Tse seems to be stuck in chok mode ever since Laughing Gor, and this series is no exception. He choks his way through much of the first half of the series, and it isn’t until the last 10 episodes or so where he offers something different, such as his loving glances toward Linda and the subtle, demure guilt towards Joyce Tang.
Oscar Leung, Mandy Wong and Him Law lend ample support to the drama. Their best moment was definitely the explosive scene when they were arguing about the title of their family home. Again, this situation hit very close to home and I suspect for many others, so this scene was one of the most memorable scenes in the entire drama. Generally competent performance by these three.
Considering JJ Jia comes from a variety show (she won the young-girl version of Beautiful Cooking so you know, if acting doesn’t work out for her she can always open a restaurant), she’s fine as the sweet-tempered, innocent Joyce. Her Mainland accent makes it hard to believe that she’s Michael Tse’s sister, though.
Michael Miu gets a relatively straightforward character to portray, and overall I think he does well except I don’t think he looked burdened enough. On reminds me a lot of Gallen Lo’s Ivan from Golden Faith, and Gallen was able to give Ivan this burdened / weary vibe that flowed through much of the series. Here, Michael is believable as the big brother role,
Joyce Tang was a shocker, a complete 180 from the cute, earnest Mrs. Lam from Ghetto Justice. In fact, she was almost scary in here, with the half-open eyes and daggers-in-smile expressions, and the quiet, soft voice. She gave Man Wah a sinister edge, so sinister that I thought she was going to go psycho in the end. And she has some daring, suggestive bed scenes with Michael Tse. An excellent performance, in fact the best of the series.
Who is the little girl who plays On’s daughter? She was adorable and acted the pants off Sonija – fantastic performance.
To Watch or Not To Watch, That is the Question
No one is going to get the warm and fuzzies after watching this, and also not recommended for those who want a diversion from real-life problems. Recommended if you want something to think about.
3.5 out of 5