Little Big Master (Film Review)

Dream a little dream.


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Characters:

  • Miriam Yeung as Lui Wai Hung
  • Louis Koo as Tse Wing Tung
  • Sammy Leung as Bowie Chin

Details:

  • Hong Kong
  • Director: Adrian Kwan
  • Running time: 112 minutes
  • Release date: March 19, 2015

Quick Rundown:

After learning about the imminent close of a rundown kindergarten in the outskirts of Hong Kong, Lui Wai Hung accepts the principal position in order to save the school for its five remaining students. In addition to taking on the unenviable task of recruiting more students, Wai Hung is determined to make this school a safe haven for the existing ones. Faced with skepticism by all those around her, she still chooses to pursue her dream of helping five young students achieve theirs.

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Anna’s Take

Just a quick glance at the poster for this film and you can probably already tell what kind of story you’re in for. There’s no real dark or grit to Little Big Master, and that’s totally okay. Sometimes you just need a feel good story with an underdog that you can truly root for. Miriam Yeung and Louis Koo are box office royalty in Hong Kong, so any movie that they co-star in together is bound to do well. Add in a couple of adorable kids to the mix, and you’ve got a heartwarming movie that appeals to almost all movie-goers. Little Big Master is a film that understands its own limitations in plot, so it never tries too hard to be something that it’s not. As a result, it’s a predictable but nevertheless charming and optimistic film that will have you wiping away tears of joy while watching it.

Both Miriam and Louis are seasoned actors and have worked together enough that they share good chemistry onscreen. For those wishing to watch a movie that focused solely on these two leads, sorry to disappoint; that’s not what this movie is about. Although I too wish there was more attention paid to the relationship between the couple, I understand why the filmmaker chose to omit it. The main relationship that is on display in Little Big Master is the one between Lui Wai Hung and her students. While the husband character factors in a little more towards the end, he’s more or less relegated to a side character for the majority of the film. Thankfully the bond shared between Wai Hung and the five students is so strong that you don’t really miss seeing Louis around.

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Seeing that this film is based on a real life story, it definitely has a very realistic quality that is rare to see on the silver screen. Even with feature films rooted in real life events, the drama is almost always turned up a notch to better captivate the audience members. With Little Big Master, the story remains quite low-key and humble. In fact, it is sometimes so unassuming that it almost feels anti-climatic. Especially with stories like these ones where there’s more likely than not a happy ending, a little suspense and drama could have helped. Along the same lines, there was no clear antagonist in Little Big Master to root against besides society itself. After all, the only real obstacle to the goals of the principal and the students was this evil, money-hungry society. I personally didn’t have a major problem with this, but some may find the film to be lacking in the drama department.

The real standout from Little Big Master is, without a doubt, the relationship between Wai Hung and her five young students. Miriam is obviously great in these types of roles, and is kind of why she is so beloved in Hong Kong cinema. But the five children who played the students were also excellent in their roles. Like the characters they were playing, these young actresses acted wise beyond their years. I thought it was great that the film included individual backstories for each of them, and didn’t just group the students all together. Giving each of them their own stories and struggles made you root for their cause even more. After all, what kind of awful person would deny these cute kids their education and dreams? Oh right, society…that’s what. But kudos to these kids who did an admirable job in their acting roles, and making even the most jaded of adults weep.

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Little Big Master is an enjoyable, heartwarming film that would be great to watch with the family because of its optimistic message. But because of the limitations that comes from these types of feel good movies, don’t be expecting this to be a cinematic masterpiece. It’s a cute and fun movie, but really nothing more. Sure; there are a few lessons to be learned, namely about perseverance, but there are other movies that does a better job at doing that. I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy the movie if you watch it, but it’s really not going to be life-changing or even all that memorable. But hey, it has Miriam and cute kids!

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This & That:

  • Little Big Master is based on the real life story of Lillian Lui, a principal at an elite kindergarten, who accepted a $4500 HKD monthly salary to run Yuen Kong Kindergarten in Yuen Long, Hong Kong.
  • The film grossed $46.6 million HKD during its theatrical run, making it the highest grossing domestic film and 5th highest grossing film overall in Hong Kong in 2015.
  • Miriam Yeung and Louis Koo previously starred together in Aberdeen (2014) & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 (2014).
  • Louis Koo was also in the popular 2015 Hong Kong films, Triumph in the Skies (movie version) & 12 Golden Ducks. He starred in Wild City alongside Shawn Yue.

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