Band Four review – Hong Kong goes indie as musical family get the band back together

<span>Photograph: Publicity image</span>
Photograph: Publicity image

You’d have to have a heart of brick to take against this earnest musical drama from Hong Kong about a single parent in an indie band dealing with her failed rocker dad suddenly walking back into her life (after leaving 20 years ago when she was little). It’s a warm and watchable valentine to music and starting afresh. But I did find something a bit make-believe and naive in its feelgood message about the power of music to heal old wounds; the idea that a sentimental chord or two could strum away the kind of pain and resentment it can take years of therapy to work through.

Cantopop star Kay Tse plays Cat, lead singer of Band Four, and single mum to pint-sized drumming prodigy Riley (Rondi Chan). Cat nursed her own mum through years of illness, and it’s at the funeral that her dad King makes an appearance – all of five foot nothing, a ponytail, rock star sunglasses and leather jacket. Real-life musician Teddy Robin Kwan plays it beautifully; beneath the swagger there’s an unmistakable air of genuine regret. King is back to make amends to Cat and he’s got a surprise: a teenage daughter, her half-sister. Cat is fuming but King shamelessly ingratiates himself with little Riley, who is delighted by his new grandpa and auntie.

When you twig that each of the four family members can play an instrument, and that Cat’s indie group is imploding, you know exactly where this is headed. It’s not helped by director Mo Lai Yan-chi pushing too many buttons, one after the other, and piling on tragic backstories and emotionally complicated relationships. Still, there’s real sweetness and charm to the movie. I found it impossible to resist its unabashed romanticism, or the sweet ending that’s not about finding love, or fame, but happiness in the family. That said, for a film about music starring actual musicians, the songs are a bunch of forgettable drifty indie mumblers.

• Band Four is released on 15 December in UK cinemas.