Dream Home opens with statistics about property prices in Hong Kong and a statement about how crazy the city is and that you have you have to be crazy to survive. One such crazy resident of Hong Kong is Cheng Li-sheung (Josie Ho) who wants to buy her dream home but is thwarted at every corner.
In order to secure the flat of her dreams Cheng turns into a murderess and begins dispatching the current occupants of the building in various gruesome ways. These kills are incredibly graphic and also often very inventive. The violence is shocking at times but also filled with black humour and it is a testament to the excellent writing that this works so well within the film as these Grand Guignol elements could so easily unbalance the film and take something away from the complex emotional and socio-cultural themes that help make the film so rewarding. The many seemingly disparate elements that make up the film are pulled together though beautifully and the film is incredibly well conceived and satisfyingly delivers.
Throughout the film there is constant cross cutting between various different time periods including when Cheng was a child and the editing here is expertly done ensuring audiences can follow and understand the events but at no point does the film over simplify things or let the audience simply be a passive observer. The film rewards an active, intelligent and engaged viewer.
The period shown when Cheng was a child also focuses on the residents of the flats that she dreams of living in, who are being forced out by the corrupt government and gangsters. The childhood scenes are beautifully written and directed and a particularly amusing exchange between two children, that is both touching and genuine, is both an enjoyable scene with great performances and witty dialogue but also crucial to a payoff that comes in the third act.
The cutting between various periods in Cheng’s life adds layers to Cheng’s character and also helps contextualize the economic and social issues that the film discusses. The depth that these scenes add to Cheng’s character is very important to the film working as although she is the main protagonist she is not a character who is that easy to sympathize with, especially when you see her brutally murdering a pregnant woman, and the scenes we see earlier in her life help us better understand how this city has turned her crazy. Josie Ho plays Cheng with a subtle sweetness and never overacts in the more extreme scenes ensuring they never become too cartoonish.
The film is incredibly well shot and edited, the aforementioned effective cross cutting between time periods being most remarkable, and Ho-Cheung Pang is certainly a filmmaker whose career is worth keeping a close eye on. Josie Ho will also be starring in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion soon which will hopefully result in her becoming more known to wider audiences. Dream Home is being released by Network Releasing in the UK later this year and you can watch the UK trailer embedded below.