Dir/prod/scr: Dax Phelan. HK, 2015, 80 mins.
Jasmine, an English-language thriller set in Hong Kong, stars Jason Tobin as a troubled young man who has just returned to town after an unspecified breakdown. He is lonely and alienated and has deep scars on his wrists. He initially seems eager to make a fresh start, but his zeal to seek atonement for previous, unexplained actions doesn’t quite ring true.
Writer-director Dax Phelan uses the trope of the unreliable narrator to mixed effect in Jasmine, a classically-executed slow-moving descent into paranoia set on the streets of Hong Kong. Working from an idea by Phelan and Tobin, Jasmine’s script is too thinly fleshed-out to be fully successful, and the production tends to drag through its final frames. This moody noir will find a slim audience locally, and works best as a calling card for its director and lead actor, who are clearly capable.
With a recent narrative debt to Christopher Nolan and a clear fondness for Patricia Highsmith, Jasmine aims to look at the loneliness and alienation of living in a city like Hong Kong
The entire piece rests on Tobin’s slender shoulders; there is brief support from Eugenia Yuan and Grace Huang, but the Eurasian actor anchors Jasmine. He gives an appropriately buttoned-up performance as Leonard, a former businessman, but his dark emotions can sometimes come across as petulance.
With narrative information deliberately held at a premiun, Leonard eventually offers up the information that his wife, Jasmine, was murdered a year ago; he starts taking cocaine, suffers a breakdown in a cramped hotel room and becomes convinced that her murderer is still walking the streets.
With a recent narrative debt to Christopher Nolan and a clear fondness for Patricia Highsmith, Dax Phelan’s Jasmine aims to look at the loneliness and alienation of living in a city like Hong Kong, and to that extent, it’s entirely successful.
Aiming for a paranoid, claustrophobic feel, Guy Livneh’s camerawork is able although Phelan’s direction is long on establishing shots, which can ultimately feel stilted and repetitive.
Production company: Shanghai Street Films
Producers: Stratton Leopold, Eric M Klein, Jason Tobin
Screenplay: Dax Phelan, from a story by Phelan and Jason Tobin.
Cinematography: Guy Livneh
Editor: Chris Chan Lee
Music: Shie Rozow
Main cast: Leonard Tobin, Eugenia Yuan, Grace Huang, Sarah Lian, Byron Mann