Depression and loneliness are emotions that I believe we will all experience but will experience in all different forms. My mental health has always been rocky but why it is like that is due to my life experiences which are solely exclusive to me. What others will go through I will never understand. Mental health is truly complex, and, in all honesty, it is a difficult subject matter to tackle in a film. It is hard to accurately showcase the struggles of mental health as it is linked to how we feel internally. You could gather 100 people and based on how they look or act you might think they are fine and even happy, but it could be the complete opposite. Time Still Turns the Pages tells the story of Mr Cheng, a high school teacher who looks back on his childhood memories as he finds an anonymous suicide note. While dealing with his family problems, Mr Cheng tries to prevent tragedy from occurring.
This film tells a dark and raw story that is truly unsettling at points. There are many moments throughout this film that leave you feeling anxious and on the verge of tears. It does not sugar-coat how childhood trauma can affect our lives even as we become adults and mature the past can wrap around us and form a hard impenetrable shell around our lives. Many scenes felt relatable in a truly scary way. The film perfectly showcases how trauma and not taking mental health seriously can not only impact our lives but also the people around us.
I also loved that the film does not shy away from showcasing people who do not take mental health seriously. One scene had me laughing in true disbelief at what was being said and the implications that kids casually copy suicide notes off the internet for the fun of it. While some could view this to be cartoonish. For me, it resonated and showed me that writer and director Nick Cheuk understood the subject matter and knew how to bring this story to life. What also brings this film to life is the incredible cast, Lo Chun Yip and Sean Wong as the older and child version of Cheng do an immaculate job and they both blew me away in every scene. I was utterly floored by their performances. If I must be critical of the film. I will say that I found the handheld cinematography to be quite distracting at times. There are many scenes where there is a small camera shake that while can be argued that it matches the mental state of the characters. For me, it was more distracting than powerful and when the camera was on a tripod the camera work was just truly striking.
This might have been the hardest watch of the year. But the film is so truly impactful and striking that it is also simply a must-watch film. It is a beautiful and haunting film that will stay with you long after the credits roll and will leave you wondering if there is more, I can do to make sure the people I love and care about are okay.
Written by Robert Drever.