Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
Cast: Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Lau Ching-Wan, Lee San-San, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Wong Tin-Lam, Lam Suet, Lee Fung, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Lam Chi-Sin, Candy Hau Woon-Ling, Kelly Lin
Cheng is May, who becomes a widow when new husband Daniel drowns on their honeymoon. Returning to Hong Kong, she's faced with her new in-laws, consisting of mother Bonnie Wong and sister Cherrie Ying. She also meets Daniel's old flame Susan (Lee San-San), who dated Daniel for years and is dismayed that May was able to win his heart in only seven days. Worse, it appears that May is nothing more than a gold-digging layabout who married Daniel for his money. May spends her days drinking, smoking, eating, watching TV and generally acting spoiled and disagreeable.
Things change when May has a brush with death which bestows her left eye with extrasensory powers. Yep, May's left eye can 'see dead people,' and the newfound ability leads to all sorts of problems. Chief among these is the presence of Wong King-Wai (Lau Ching-Wan), a ghost of a former classmate who drowned when he was thirteen years old. Wong still acts like a child, and does silly things like pretend to be Kamen Rider from the famous Japanese TV serials. Wong badgers May to help stray dogs and even the occasional person. She's bothered at first, but ultimately relents, and the two form a bond of friendship. Even more, the connection begins to humanize May, and even leads her to confront her personal issues — which have less to do with greed and selfishness than one might think.
Despite its ghost film trappings, My Left Eye Sees Ghosts is purely a comedy — but one with a noticeable heart. Johnnie To dispenses with any horror or suspense, and instead throws on the laughs full force. Wide angle lenses, obnoxious acting, and broadly drawn characters are all in effect here, and the alienation factor could occur for those expecting the usual Johnnie To/Sammi Cheng romantic hijinks. May is more than unlikable — she's reprehensible. Given her extremely negative traits, one could expect that her transformation might be unbelievable, but the filmmakers pull it off.
However, Cheng's charm or charisma is not the primary reason that May's transformation is believable. It's actually the writing and the development of May's character that makes her become more sympathetic in the eyes of the audience. The filmmakers take great pains to demonstrate just what lies behind May's seemingly unremorseful facade. She may appear to be uncaring and unselfish, but little hints arise which show her true feelings. The film does eventually resort to a cathartic 'tell all' speech by May which explains a great deal, but the moment doesn't seem truly forced, and in the hands of Cheng (one of HK Cinema's premier weepers) it even becomes touching.
Getting to that moment can take some effort, though. The film starts in such an obvious wacky comic mode that it (like To's earlier Help!!!) seems to be begging for laughs rather than eliciting them. It isn't until some form of emotion is injected into the proceedings that My Left Eye Sees Ghosts suddenly becomes a film worth seeing. The friendship that develops between May and Wong is fun and even moving, especially when the film reaches its final moments. Much of the film's plot seems easily arranged and taken for granted, which is not uncommon for any seemingly silly comedy. However, when all is said and done, there is some remarkably fine sentiment beneath all the sight gags and pratfalls. Johnnie To may not be in his best comedic form here (that honor would be reserved for Needing You), but he still manages to make the comedy affecting rather than simply funny.
Given all that, it's worth sorting through the film's occasionally sappy tone, copious montage and uneven construction to get to its finer points. And, the actors make it extremely worthwhile. Though Sammi Cheng still relies on her usual winning screen persona, she shows a larger dramatic range than previously thought possible. Her usual physical comedy is spiced up with some comedic sexiness, and she brings a greater range of emotions to the table. Even more, she carries the film from start to finish, which is new as she normally has an extremely strong male co-star along for the ride. This isn't a slight to Lau Ching-Wan, who brings his usual skill and even a subtle gravity to the film, but he clearly appears in support of Cheng. The majority of the film hinges on Cheng's performance, and as you'd hope from Johnnie To's self-appointed female star, she comes through gracefully.
At the end of My Left Eye Sees Ghosts, the feeling that remains is one of inconsequential statisfaction. The film's genial tone and commercial leanings make it appear like nothing more than your usual entertaining fluff. However, considering the plot and character revelations, a second viewing might actually make the film better. Knowing how the characters end up gives the viewer an edge, as it makes the characters' actions and the actors' performances stronger and more deeply felt. And that's a rare accomplishment for any film, let alone a Hong Kong one.