In the months leading up to the 1997 handover of colonial Hong Kong to China.
a poorly British ex-pat journalist seeks to record this unique period while also becoming infatuated with the mistress of a powerful businessman.

Looks great but the story is thin and at times forced.

It`s July, 1997, and Hong Kong is about to be handed over by the British to the Chinese. John, Jeremy Irons, a sickly journalist long resident in the Crown Colony, becomes besotted with Vivian, Gong Li, the beautiful wife of Chang, Michael Hui, a powerful businessman. While trying to persuade Vivian to leave with him, John is working on a film story involving Jean, Maggie Cheung, a mysterious, scarred woman. This film has taken too long to reach us. When I first saw it, it was only two months after the handover in Hong Kong and so was absolutely up to the minute. The immediacy has been frittered away in the long delay. Now, the flaws in Jean-Claude Carriere`s screenplay are more apparent. The story really is quite thin, and forced at times, especially in the scenes with Maggie Cheung. Although Jeremy Irons convincingly portrays the weariness of his character, it`s not a particularly interesting performance. The Chinese players more than make up for it, though, and both Gong Li and Maggie Cheung are excellent, as is Michael Hui - who is best known as a comic actor - in the straight role of Vivian`s husband. The most impressive element of the film is the way it looks. Wayne Wang and Australian cameraman Christopher Doyle (who did all the 2nd Unit work) explore the city of Hong Kong in great detail and the many moods of this amazing place are beautifully captured on film. Alongside the exotic beauty and elegance, we see the sordidness and even the horror that makes Hong Kong such an intriguing place. Chinese Box is most successful when dealing with the city and the Chinese characters. Margaret`s Comments: Chinese Box has a kinetic energy, it`s so visually interesting with its images of Hong Kong life and death. The characters, even though they`re metaphors - particularly Maggie Cheung`s character Jean - are fascinating and moving. So even though this film operates on a metaphorical level Wayne Wang and his team of screenwriters have imbued the whole with the personal to such an extent that I was intensely moved. It is such a beautifully sad film, about the end of an era, and about the optimism of change.