HOME SONG STORIES, THE: DVD
Tom (Darren Yap), now in his 40s, begins to write the memoirs of his 60s childhood, as the little boy (Joel Lok) whose mother Rose (Joan Chen), was a glamorous Shanghai nightclub singer. When Rose meets Aussie sailor Bill (Steve Vidler), they are quickly married, and she packs up Tom and his older sister May (Irene Chen) to head for Melbourne. The marriage just as quickly breaks up and Rose moves with the kids to Sydney. After a succession of male friends and little success, in 1971 Rose moves back to Melbourne, in an uncomfortable arrangement living again with Bill - and his mother. With Bill called away to sea, Rose takes up with young Chinese cook Joe (Qi Yuwu) but despair, and conflicts over May's relationship with Joe, tear the family further apart. Little Tom is deeply hurt, but May's ongoing conflict with her mother takes a respite when Rose tells her daughter about her traumatic teenage years.
Review by Louise Keller:
The defining stories of our lives are those powerful experiences of our childhood, which often mould us into the people we become. It is one such chapter from the tumultuous childhood of writer director Tony Ayres that best describes The Home Song Stories, portraying a vivid snapshot of a young boy juggling the weight of the world on his young, vulnerable shoulders. It is a childhood that revolves around his glamorous, flighty and unstable mother, where the only constant is the non-constant in the form of new homes, new places and ever-changing 'uncles'. The delicate issues of relationships and their emotional impact are beautifully described and the resulting film with its candid storytelling and superb performances is as haunting as it is affecting.
'Why do we have to move all the time?' Joel Lok's 11 year old Tom asks his mother Rose (Joan Chen), a former night club singer whose new Australian life with sailor Bill (Steven Vidler) is coloured with more than a tad of convenience. 'Be happy,' Rose tells her son, as she hangs the exquisite Chinese glass beaded curtain in one dowdy suburban home after another. Bill is one of two 'good men' in their lives. The other is Yuwu Qi's Joe, who falls in love with both Rose and her teenage daughter May (Irene Chen). On a backdrop of his mother's mood swings and pill abuse, Tom is a solitary child, playing bridge with three imaginary partners and reading the encyclopedia from start to finish, hoping to find all of life's knowledge in order to protect himself. Joan Chen is a knockout, imbuing a myriad of complexities to lovable, despicable Rose, and Lok, with his doe-eyes and angelic face, is a natural on screen. Irene Chen (no relation to Joan) is also terrific, and Ayres directs his cast with serene restraint.
Tom's experiences include many that no child should have to bear, yet this is a story of triumph and fortitude. It's a potently involving story, guaranteed to generate laughs and tears through the frivolous highs and devastating lows. I loved every minute of this emotionally rich tale, that resonates passionately and with truth. The Home Song Stories, my favourite Australian film of the year so far, is more than an illustration of a youngster's extraordinary life. It is a reflection, a cathartic memoir, a love story and a tribute to his unfathomable butterfly mother, the fundamental influence in his life.
DVD special features includes audio commentary with Tony Ayres, deleted scenes, a making of featurette, interviews with Tony Ayres and Joan Chen, screen tests, trailers, artwork gallery and study guide.
Published February 14, 2008
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HOME SONG STORIES, THE: DVD (M)
CAST: Joan Chen, Yuwu Qi, Joel Lok, Irene Chen, Steven Vidler, Kerry Walker, Gabrielle Chan, Pearl Tan, Haven Tso
VOICES: Jamie Oxenbould
PRODUCER: Liz Watts, Michael McMahon
DIRECTOR: Tony Ayres
SCRIPT: Tony Ayres
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nigel Bluck
EDITOR: Denise Haratzis
MUSIC: Anthony Partos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Melinda Doring
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 23, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Tony Ayres, deleted scenes, making of, Interviews with Tony Ayres & Joan Chen, screen tests with Joel Lok, Irene Chen, trailers, artwork gallery, Atom Study guide
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel
DVD RELEASE: February 13, 2008