Eve And The Fire Horse Julia Kwan

Eve (Phoebe Jojo Kut) is a precocious nine-year-old growing up in mid-'70s Vancouver. She was born in the Chinese Year of the Fire Horse, which is infamous for producing rabble-rousing kids. And Eve is no exception; she nearly sets a church on fire and imagines Buddha and Christ dancing in her living room. To be fair, the world around her is troublesome. Her mother (Vivian Wu of The Last Emperor) miscarries and Eve's beloved grandmother passes away. Eve is forced to grow up quickly and learns to accept life's little joys as precious gifts, like the sedan her father, an immigrant cook slaving away in a restaurant, wins by scratching a lottery ticket. When her older sister, Karena (Hollie Lo), embraces Christianity, Eve follows her to Sunday school and joins her in daily prayers. On the flipside, Eve also bears the weight of her Biblical name, which she equates with sin and guilt. First-time director Kwan has created an ambitious but uneven work. Though she wrote an award-winning script, the finished film feels like a series of childhood vignettes strung together by narrator Eve. The first half of the film is the strongest, as Eve's close relationship with her grandmother rings true and her sorrow touches us. In the background, her mother May-Ling struggles with depression following her miscarriage, which is starkly presented here. Overall, Chan Chit Man Lester stands out in his performance as her father. However, the film loses direction and speed as it delves into the Christian story. There seems to be no point to her religious conversion, and her parents offer no opposition to her faith, which robs the film of conflict. Renowned for a string of acclaimed short films, Kwan effectively creates atmosphere, taking us into Eve's dream world through fantasy sequences that sometimes lapse into whimsy, sometimes charm. This film is a decent debut but it works episodically, not as a whole. (Mongrel Media)