Golden Faith

Reviewed by: purpleprose

November 11, 2006

Rating: five

Gallen Lo as Ivan Ting
Deric Wan as Chung Sau Hong
Jessica Hsuan as Rachel Ching
Anne Heung as Sabrina Kwai
Raymond Lam as Oscar Ting
Michelle Yip as Rain Cheng Siu Yu
Tavia Yeung as Kiko Tsong
Myolie Wu as Ting Sin Yan (Yan Yan)
Gigi Wong as Mrs. Ting Weng Pong
Sek Sau as Hong Pak To
Paul Chun as Ting Weng Pong
Power Chan as Si Tou Kai
Lok Ying Kwan as Ting Weng Tong

Synopsis (Spoiler Warning):
Ivan Ting is the CEO of the reputable gold-dealing company Ting Fung, a company owned by his adoptive father Ting Weng Pong. Although the company had its beginnings in illegal transactions, Mr. Ting and Ivan are determined to give it a clean start. Numerous obstacles stand in their way, however, including the opposition of close relatives and old friends. When Mr. Ting prematurely dies of liver cancer, Ivan is left to fight the battle alone.

The struggle to clean Ting Fung's record causes countless misunderstandings between Ivan and his adoptive family, his biological brother sergeant Chung Sau Hong, and his loved one Rachel Ching. Things are then furthermore complicated by the meddling of Mr. Ting's real son Oscar, a young man misled by his uncle's cunning deceptions.

Quarrels, fights, and schemes follow one after another, filling Ivan's life with unbearable pressure and sadness. Rachel separates with him to be with Hong, Oscar cuts off their brotherly ties, and the Ting family accuses him of having forged his father's will. Yet when Ivan decides to give it all up, he finds acceptance with his blood family and the concern of many loyal friends. With their support, Ivan perseveres in his strivings to save Ting Fung, and the story ends happily with Oscar repenting from his misdeeds and Rachel reunited with Ivan.

If ever there exists a perfect script, then "Golden Faith" claims its ownership. The entire story consists of layers upon layers of subplots, symbolism, and three-dimensional characters. With the numerous love affairs, family ties, business schemes, and ethical situations included, the plot thickens into an amazingly complex and yet flawlessly written story. Not a single inconsistent fact, hanging incident, or illogical development can be found within the series. The characters, however peripherial, are well-developed and tangible. The lines vary from light-hearted jesting to heartfelt pledges to complicated court cases all with impeccable realism. I would not have believed in the existence of such a story if I had not watched this series myself.

As coherent and flawless as the script may be, this series may be strongly criticized for its lack of realism. Long-lost brothers, undying love, and fights over inheritance are all details that are simply too trite. Ivan's utter selflessness is indeed unrealistic, and certain characters seem to be unreasonably innocent at times. However, the story carries the spirit of romanticism throughout its development as it clearly pursues a more fairy-tale plot than a down-to-earth story. As long as viewers keep this pointer in mind, the series will stand in its perfection.

Cast Analysis:
Gallen Lo's portrayal of the chivalrous, loyal, and selfless Ivan is absolutely beyond description and comparison. As unrealistic as Ivan's character may be, Gallen manages to capture the character's soul and breathe life into what may easily become a princely caricature. He plays the scenes of emotional struggles superbly, whether the struggles be between love and loyalty, family and love, good and evil, or others. His depth as an actor is displayed here with heartwrenching acuteness.

Deric Wan does a solid job as the seemingly superficial but firmly righteous Hong. Although the character's sweet-talking, flirtatious personality may initially ward off the good impressions of audiences, Deric eases into the role and makes viewers identify with Hong's loyalty and true sweetness. His emotional scenes are definitely shadowed by Gallen's, but he still does a swell job. His fraternal chemistry with Gallen is strong, as dissimilar as their physical appearances may be.

Jessica Hsuan offers what may be considered a good performance. Her liveliness is charming and her inward strength well-imputed into Rachel's character. Although her performance may not be significant in comparison to those of her male counterparts, Jessica marks out this role from her other works by her extraordinary chemistry with Gallen and Michelle, who plays her sister.

Anne Heung is the weakest actress in the leading cast. Her grace is evident in the way she carries herself as a professional jewelry designer, but she definitely falls short in her acting. Though Anne already gives a considerably notable performance here, the other members of the cast outshine her by a thousand degrees. Her damsel-in-distress character does not add to her charm, and her whining voice kills her.

Raymond Lam appears as the bright, innocent young Oscar. While Raymond might have yet to reach his full potential in this series, he foreshadows his future success. He embodies Oscar extremely well and is convincing both as the light-hearted young master at the beginning of the series and as the misled traitor near the end. Apart from his noteworthy acting, Raymond also lends his voice to a solid sub-theme.

Michelle Yip may well be the most controversial actress of the series. While some have categorized her among the rising stars that "Golden Faith" formally introduces, she has also been harshly criticized for her static way of acting. To put it simply, Michelle does not in any way particularly shine as Rain. Her interactions with Jessica are good, and she does manage to look very infatuated over Hong during a handful of scenes. However, she still lacks depth and ease in her acting.

Tavia Yeung is competent in her portrayal of Hong's mischievous cousin. Like Deric and Raymond, she slides easily into her role while slowly pulling in the appropriate level of audience attention at every stage of development. Her romantic chemistry with Raymond is considerable, as is her degree of attractiveness. Tavia really does a solid job as Kiko, though this performance may not be as strong as her future ones.

Myolie Wu deserves her breakthrough role as Ivan's mentally-challenged sister. Although she does not immediately engage audiences at the beginning of the series, she grows into her role and captures the hearts of audiences young and old. Like many of her co-actors, she has yet to reach her full potential while in this series. Yet she is very lovable here.

Sek Sau and Paul Chun are two solid veteran actors who deliver strong performances in overused roles. As always, Sek Sau is the rich charming villian and Paul the aging wealthy merchant. Both of them act very well, but the stereotype casting makes them one nitch less credible.

Power Chan plays Yan Yan's mentally-challenged boyfriend very credibly and absolutely amiably. I have liked him less elsewhere. Gigi Wong seems insignificant at the outset, but her charisma gradually builds up to suit her position as the wealthy mistress of Ting Fung. She also portrays “motherly moments” wonderfully opposite Raymond and Myolie. Lok Ying Kwan plays the evil uncle well enough. The loyal family friend Henry is rather comical at times, but his frankness garners audience affection. The actor who plays Jack deserves an encore performance. He is simply adorable as the unconventional gum-chewing lawyer, and the role also offers proper comic relief from the heavy main themes.

Just as with most of the elements of this series, the production is inscrutable. The outdoor shots are beautifully done, including many done in Australia. The camera captures good angles, the background music reflects good workmanship, the costume designs and make-up make everyone attractive, the carefully-planned repetition of scene settings add to the tangible quality of the series, the editting is flawless, and the Ting mansion is magnificent. All these add up to a whole even greater than the sum of its parts.

Extra Good Points:
1) The chemistry between Gallen and Jessica, Raymond and Tavia is very notable.
2) The four songs written for this series are all beautiful.
3) The symbolism weaved into the story (e.g. guardian star, fireworks, kissing fish) enhances it wonderfully.
4) The story manages to follow multiple subplots without diverting far from the main storyline.
5) Every character gets his just desserts at the end of the story.
6) The physiques of the cast suit their roles perfectly.
7) There is not a single character that fails to engage.

Extra Bad Points:
1) The style of the last two episodes vary from the rest, though no lasting harm is done.
2) Almost all of episode 10 is used to portray the death of one person.

This is about as perfect as television seriesget. Though the story may have multiple cliché elements, the impeccable cast and marvelous production make this a must-see. Even if romanticized stories do not usually suit you, this series will be a worthwhile thing to experience due to its classic quality. Watch it.

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