Though Pang Ho-cheung’s Aberdeen is very much a Chinese film about Hong Kong, it refuses to alienate its audience by making its focus specific issues of Chinese life. Aberdeen is essentially a film about relationships in the contemporary world told through the parallel and intertwining lives of the people in one family. On each level of the family’s infrastructure the camera picks out key details: a lonesome daughter’s midnight snacks, a father’s gender-centric obsessing, an uncle’s indifferent cheating, and a grandfather’s bliss in later life. Here the family is its own source of anxiety and its own salvation.
Ho-cheung’s Hong Kong is one of colours and life, a buzzing hive of activity where events collide and erupt to produce new scenarios. Here, family life spirals out of control and is ,time and time again wrenched close to some kind of epiphany only for life to inevitably stumble in the way. All of this is shown in a gorgeous Technicolor palate which, along with the fantastic pace of the story, produces an odd travel documentary feel to some of the film. At other points the camera floats through a miniature of Hong Kong shot in hues of purple, red, orange and green, a weird dreamscape where the camera retreats at points of transition. As with most details in the film, even this space plays an important narrative role later in the film. Ho-cheung utilizes a zany sense of fate to keep all events integral to the story at some point or another.
In the end the film proves it has some slightly backwards ideas about its resolution, yet overall it’s a heart-warming story of life, love, and family. Ho-cheung seems to want the audience, like the family, to understand that equilibrium is an impossibility but that’s not a bad thing at all.
A ponderous cross-section of life in contemporary Hong Kong, spinning through the realities of everyday life whilst tackling some hefty ideas on what family means. Aberdeen is clean and colourful, inquisitive, and honest to the end.