by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
“Have you seen Bố Già, it’s quite touching,” my friends exclaimed after taking their families to see the film, made with a new plot and story twists while retaining the cast that made the popular web drama it’s based on.
Trấn Thành, 34, made his name playing comedic roles in the web drama after appearing in popular TV game shows.
He then worked with director Vũ Ngọc Đãng to launch a big screen feature film that promised to wipe out everything viewers had seen in the series and provide them with a completely new storyline and context.
Released for just over a week, the film has grossed VNĐ300 billion (US$13 million) against a production budget of VNĐ20 billion ($850,000) -- an all-time box office record in Việt Nam. It has piqued the interest of viewers from all walks of life, as it touches upon the nature of a loving, doting father figure, living in a poor neighbourhood of a big city but constantly caring for his family and anyone who comes to him for help.
“When the credits rolled at the end our teenage kids came to hug us,” said one of my friends, who took her family to see it. “We loved the movie and the message it sends.”
Bố già literally means “Old Daddy” in Vietnamese, and was actually the name given to the film classic The Godfather, which remains popular in Việt Nam.
Unlike Marlon Brando’s character, however, Bố già is neither rich nor powerful but has a big heart and is kind towards all around him.
The name “Old Daddy” nails it, as many neighbourhoods have an elderly gentleman with a kindly soul who is able to do odd jobs around the home to help out. The twists, the sharp dialogue, and the comedic situations make the film both touching and funny.
“Some of the scenes really are sweet,” said one teenage viewer, “and if it weren’t for the fact that it was Trấn Thành, I would have shed some tears.”
Known for comedic roles and quick dialogue, many were surprised to hear he was involved in a serious feature film as co-director, scriptwriter, and leading man.
“I had my doubts at first,” one friend said, “but this proves he’s a great actor who can both make us laugh and move us to tears.”
Leading men have become quite popular in recent years. Images of Vietnamese men fighting in war, or being lazy, grumpy, and demanding are a welcome absence from our screens.
The part of a loving father, who may have been widowed or left by his wife, is a sympathetic figure for most viewers.
“Such men do not exist in real life,” according to one colleague, though, who found him 'too good to be true'. “The film has good intentions, and it’s worth seeing, but I found it rather pretentious because of the snappy dialogue. It’s basically about a father-child relationship, so its message does at least have a human element.”
Originally scheduled to premiere on the first day of the Lunar New Year that fell on February 12 this year, its release was delayed for a month due to a new outbreak of COVID-19 in late January.
Lockdowns in some provinces, the gloomy situation around the world, and closed borders have brought people closer to their families. And maybe created a time for loving family-oriented entertainment.
I’ve actually been hesitant about going to see it. As adults, not much will be changed by a film and especially not how we treat our parents.
But it might change the way our children treat us. They all leave home someday, and if there’s a chance to spend quality time together, maybe it’s time to set my hesitation aside and head to the cinema. VNS