Down Memory Lane


Reviewed by: sukting

September 30, 2008

Rating: three-point-five

How long : 20 episodes

Foreword

Those who are eager to see the late Cho Tak Wah, Mai Shuet and Man Tse Leung working again after ‘Taiji Master’ can watch this drama. It is on how a coolie gains success through hardship. The setting is in the 20s. It was also Man Tse Leung's last drama with TVB.

Story/Introduction on characters

1. Lee Cheong Wong – Man Tse Leung
He is a helpful man to save the Wong brothers. Because of this, he offends his boss to lose the fireman job that he buys with his savings. The worst comes for him when Kam Wing sells him off to Indonesia as a coolie. He has to leave China and is separated from his family. He gets to know Yuk Nam and she wanders with him to create job opportunities to help the Chinese coolies. Cheong Wong becomes a rich man now but is still as humble as before to let his fellow coolies and families stay with him in his big mansion. They make up his family that he has lost.

Although Yuk Nam has done a lot for him, he can’t forget Sau Lan. At the end of 10 years later, he miraculously finds Sau Lan but really rich with another man. He begs her and his children to return to him without success. His children want to see him but are stopped by Sau Lan. There is a touching scene when he stands in the rain for hours to see them. When he is rejected, he returns home crestfallen. The others are shocked when he faints and slips down from the stairs. Nursing him when he runs a high fever because of this, they help to persuade Sau Lan to return to him.

Man is very much underused and underrated. But he is a man’s man - what a man’s mannerisms should be like : manly , firm and solid. However, I have wished that he reduces some weight. A coolie shouldn’t look as macho as him as they suffer a lot of hardhip and malnutrition.

2. Wong San – Lam Mun Lung
He is also another righteous coolie. Seeing how Sui turns evil, San is forced to combine forces with Cheong Wong to deal with him. He goes through all odds to marry his sweetheart, Siu Yin although many oppose to do this to his late close friend. Seeing that he doesn’t repent for his mistake, he has to shoot him dead. He has to be in jail for 25 years but Siu Yin still insists on waiting for him. Mun Lung is in his best here as a ill-fated but strong man.

3. Wong Sui – Lam Kar Wah
He is also a coolie and is San’s elder brother. He tries to get intimate with Siu Yin in vain. He is unsatisfied with his life and is worked up upon seeing that San is in love with Siu Yin. Thus he works with the westerners to do evil deeds. He has a tragic end for being too ruthless.

4. Yuen Ah Kuai – Kwan Hoi San
He is Sau Lan’s father who opposes to Sau Lan leaving China but has to give in upon seeing how she suffers.

5. Lui Sing Fai – Wong Wai
He is a doctor and nurses Sau Lan to health. He treats her children as his own. Seeing how Sau Lan pins for Cheong Wong, he lets them reunited again.

6. Yuen Sau Lan – Mai Shuet
She is separated from Cheong Wong after he is forced to leave China. But this doesn’t deter her from searching for him with their 4 children. She can’t find him and lands up falling ill in Singapore. She marries Sing Fai out of gratitude and is torn between the two men.

She keeps lying to Cheong Wong that she is Sau Lan as she has a new name. But her protests soon become weak as he is very persistent. She finally returns to him. Superb acting from Mai Shuet as usual to act as the gentle but strong wife.

7. Leng Yuk Nam – Lo Lum
She receives western education and doesn’t behave like a traditional woman. She helps her father to run the mine and gets to know Cheong Wong. She admires his guts and potential. Supporting his belief, she leaves home with determination and creates her career with him. She falls for him but knows that his heart isn’t for her. Still, she stands by him all the time.

She is down when seeing how Cheong Wong tries to win back his family again. She can’t hide her anxiety for him when he falls critically ill because of this. Who isn’t touched when seeing how hurt she is when she tends to him the whole night but he keeps calling his wife’s name.

It is a big breakthrough for Lam. She impersonates well as Yuk Nam as a man in a suit to discuss business with clients. Yet, she can be so endearing and feminine whenever she is with Cheong Wong.

8. Lo Siu Yin – Kok Ho Ying
She is bought by an old coolie as his wife. After her fiancé dies of an illness, she becomes a couple with San.

9. Chow Kam Wing – Lo Lok Lum
He is the ruthless boss to get Cheong Wong shipped off as a slave. Thanks to him, Cheong Wong is torn away from family. He also goes through a hell lot of struggle.

10. Leng Chong San – Cho Tak Wah
Yuk Nam is his only child so he handles his business to her. But she lets him down to fall for a coolie and run away with him. Both get into a cold war for years till she achieves success to return home.

Interesting Notes

The drama was shot in Malaysia and China. TVB never saves money on dramas which involve Man Tse Leung.

Many have said that Kar Wah and Tse Leung looked like brothers. And in reality, they were as close as brothers after ‘Dong Doi Nam Yee’. Kar Wah looked forward to work with Tse Leung as brothers again. Although he was disappointed this time, they were at least working in the same drama.

Hor Ying and Mun Lung started dating and got married because of this drama. They called this drama their matchmaker.

Song

The themesong is ‘The Heart Harmonies With the Voice’. It is a very fast-paced song. The subtheme is ‘Forever This Day’ which is a touching and slow song. Both are from Lau Tak Wah and are in his ‘Really Forever’ Mandarin album. I really love both songs. It still puzzles me why they are not included in his other Cantonese albums. He came to Singapore to promote this album in 1995 and had a thumbprint session instead of an autograph session. Tak Wah had injured his hand so he could not sign. I bought this cassette and had kept it since then. This was a very special present indeed.

Conclusion

This drama is totally underrated and forgotten but nonetheless superb. It shows how the coolies work hard for their futures but lazy ones will succumb to vices or greed easily. Although Tse Leung and Mai Shuet have not worked for a long time, they still compliment each other well. The same can be said for Mun Long and Hor Ying too. You will definitely not be disappointed.

Sukting’s ratings :
On acting : *** (Scale of 5)
On story : *** (Scale of 5)
On songs : **** (Scale of 5)


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