Secret of the Heart

Reviewed by: yingkit

August 18, 2009

Rating: three-point-five

A blockbuster with big cast, reminding the likes of “Looking Back in Anger” and “Cold Blood Warm Heart”. Recommended for die-hard fans of TVB series of the 90’s. The plot revolves around the hatred between two families: the feeble Chengs (led by Suet Nei) and the mighty Kams (led by Paul Chun). Because the heads of two households cannot settle their affair in the past, what they did leads to the switch identities of the boys, Cheng Ka Hung (who’s actually a “Kam”) and Kelvin Kam (who turns out to be a “Cheng”). Twenty years later, when the lads grow up and discover their real backgrounds, all sorts of melodrama proceed.

Story-wise, Secret of the Heart simply steps on old footprints of the previous large-scale shows, containing the muddle of elements such as thorny relationships, business talks, triads, vengeance, kidnapping, murders, deaths, and character transformation. Those TVB’s tactics are, after all, nothing new. But in Secret, the formulas work as they are built on the themes the series try to explore. 1) Nature vs. Nurture: the characters are born good humans, but somehow circumstances force them into acting in certain ways to please their desires, to defend themselves or just to survive in society. Still, there have to be moments in which only one side can win. 2) Love is fatal: the main characters are entangled in unexplainable webs of love and thus make lots of stupid mistakes, either hurting themselves or their partners. Secret dwells on two love sections: the first one involves Vincent (Gallen Lo), his girlfriend Apple (Eileen Yeow), his neighbor Cheng Ka Ming (Amy Kwok), Ka Ming’s sister, Ka Wai (Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei), Michael Kam (Felix Wong), and Michael’s niece Joe (Melissa Ng); the second one is less complicated with Ka Hung (Sunny Chan), Diana (Ada Choi), Kelvin (Nick Cheung), and Kelly (Jessica Hsuan). Since the series is Secret of the Heart, almost every character holds love secrets and plays love-chasing games for the entire sixty-two episodes. But of course, revenge also takes an important part. Therefore, love doesn’t come easy for our couples.

Even though Secret aims to clear points, it is not without problems. One of them is the length. The series is too long; hence tedious parts are evident throughout. Yet the problem with the characterization is what upsets viewers. For example, the character Ka Hung is described as an honest, innocent young man, but as the series progresses, we only find him an idiot and a loser. Or let’s talk about Ka Ming; while this woman is supposed to be the center of affection for her kind personality, her actions are extremely irrational that it’s hard to understand why two men fight over her. In addition, some of the characters commit many foolish deeds that are plain pathetic. Nonetheless, despite its weaknesses, Secret manages to be watchable by making viewers feel and care. The series does deliver quite a few memorable moments. Lots of scenes are well-acted and even affecting with credits belong to the stars.

Yes, the best reason that sets Secret apart from TVB productions nowadays is the cast. No wonder why the series scooped many awards including best actor (Gallen Lo), best actress (Ada Choi), and best on-screen improvement (Nick Cheung) in 1998. The male cast is a rare gem. Gallen Lo was terrific, switching with ease between funny and serious modes. Vincent and Apple’s storyline was well-done without any distraught emotions. Felix Wong brought a suitable weigh to his role, excelling at being enraged as well as pitiful. Sunny Chan was fine although his character sucked. The actual person who kept the plot going was Nick Cheung who lent his villainous portrayal a right touch of menace and charm. He even earned some sympathy for the character’s decadence to villainy. The females are also good. Ada Choi, looking sleek, stood out as Diana, the materialistic-turn-sacrificial girl. Kathy Chow gave a very sad performance. Jessica Hsuan and Melissa Ng were typecast, but each performed decently in their given roles. Amy Kwok was overacting and annoying, but oh well... The same thing also applies to Suet Nei. Veterans Paul Chun and Wu Fung were okay to watch.

Even though Secret of the Heart is far from perfect, it remains a valuable production that is worth-seeing. One can forgive Secret’s flaws and simply watch for its merits. The series got a respectable plot, excellent cast, lovely songs, and above all, a bunch of gripping scenes. If you’re seeking for a fine drama, forget The Gem of Life, rent this one instead!

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