Tony Ayres' poignant autobiographical feature follows the turbulent life of a glamorous Hong Kong nightclub singer (Joan Chen) who emigrates to Melbourne with her two children in 1964.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
In Tony Ayres’ poignant second feature, based on his own life story, glamorous Hong Kong nightclub singer Rose (Joan Chen) immigrates to Melbourne in 1964 with her two young children in tow. Told through the eyes of her 10-year-old son Tom (Joel Lok), who, as an adult, is writing a screenplay of his mother’s life, we first meet Rose on stage, crooning her heart out and hotting up the libido of Bill (Steven Vidler), a Navy man who marries Rose and whisks her off to Melbourne to live with his mother. Rose, it transpires, is the kind of fiery, manipulative diva who can’t last five minutes without a man and when Bill goes off to sea, she takes up with Joe (Qi Yuwu), a dishy young chef at the local Chinese restaurant. Joe does his best to provide for the family, but he’s far too young to be a stepdad – least of all to Tom’s teenage sister May (Irene Chen) whose beauty blossoms daily. As Rose battles her own dependency, jealousy and violent mood swings, her two children must learn to fend for themselves, becoming surrogate parents to their tempestuous mother. Sumptuous production design, costumes and photography evoke a sense of Chinese exoticism adrift in 1970s Melbourne, powerfully suggesting the loss and displacement at the heart of the immigrant experience.
“Ayres follows up Walking on Water with a mature, semi-autobiographical work likely to connect with audiences of all backgrounds. The Home Song Stories allows Joan Chen to do her best work in years as the needy, unstable mother who wants the best for her family but looks in all the wrong places, unaware that she holds the key to its emotional balance.” — Matt Riviera, Last Night with Riviera