The naughty premise of Isabella concerns cop Ma picking up a one night stand but the girl afterwards claims to be his daughter. The man is shocked. He does not know what to say or how to react. Finally, he asks the girl what it is that she wants. The answer is simple, she needs $3000 for rent & debt payments. What sounds like a simplistic daytime movie affair is in fact far darker during its opening act. Isabella focuses on the complex relationship between a father and daughter who have been separated for years.
Once the initial hurdles of their actually meeting and the shock subsides to a certain degree, the story begins in earnest. Pang has again provided Hong Kong cinema with a spark in the genre spectrum many dare not or won’t acknowledge. There’s not a whole lot more to the movie than that. Shing grows up because he finds that acting like a father can make him happy in ways that simple hedonism doesn’t and Yan relearns how to be a child and will possibly be a better, less cynical adult because of it. The cast of Isabella is convincing. Chapman To, who is also one of the film’s producers, delivers a memorable performance as the jaded but willing to change his life police officer. Isabella boasts a terrific soundtrack comprised of traditional Portuguese and contemporary Asian tunes.
If you enjoy the moody aura of Wong Kar Wai’s films, I strongly recommend that you take a look at Pang Ho-Cheung’s Isabella. The acting of this slow progression towards togetherness is for the most part handled very well. Isabella can feel cold and emotionless due to low-key choices, but needing to choke up is not an issue with Isabella I found out. Whatever structure you’ve had in your life and however you’ve confronted emotions, some of us just don’t wear them on our sleeves. Isabella is a magical drama with a great atmosphere. I didn’t just leave this film deeply impressed by the film itself, but was also blown away by a fantastic soundtrack, which eventually won the movie a “Silver Bear” Award for the best film score at the Berlin Filmfestspiele.
It is an interesting character study to watch two strangers thrusted together by fate which forces them into a new way of life. However, the girl didn’t feel totally authentic. She seems more like a vehicle for the film’s agenda than a credible, actual person and in a film like Isabella that relies heavily on mood and atmosphere, it disrupts the rhythm and flow of the movie. While there are some natural, touching moments between the two, the progression of their newly found father-daughter relationship flows a little too smooth. I had a hard time believing that hardnosed Shing would so easily abandon his previous lifestyle to all of a sudden play Dad. Overall though, it was still a great movie that you should seek out on either Blu-ray or DVD.