Film Review: Pali Road

The unearthly beauty of Hawaii provides the sole reason to even think of looking at this absolute mess of a psychological thriller, haphazardly scripted by Doc Pedrolie and Victoria Arch, and woozily directed by Jonathan Lim.
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Car crash survivor Lily (Michelle Chen), a young doctor, arises from unconsciousness only to find she is living an entirely different life from what she once knew. She thought she had a loving white boyfriend, Neil (Jackson Rathbone), but discovers that she is married instead to his Asian rival, Dr. Mitch Kayne (Sung Kang), and also has a little boy by him.

Is it amnesia or a terrifying case of being severely gaslighted? Everybody, including her very traditional and intransigent parents from China, completely denies Neil’s existence, but memories of him persist, driving Lily crazy.

Apart from the preposterous screenplay and clumsy helming, the biggest liability here is Chen, whose deficiency as an actress creates a big black hole in the center of the movie. Scene after scene finds her utterly bewildered, followed by some darkly telling discovery, which is inevitably succeeded by her sobbing helplessly away. Utter, uninvolved boredom sets in quickly, not helped at all by such hapless scripted fillips as a hula girl figurine she comes across, which seems to have some menacing power over her. (Thoughts of that “Brady Bunch” episode in Hawaii with the evil tiki will undoubtedly surface in many viewers’ minds, absolutely lethal to the atmosphere of spine-tingling suspense so desired.)

The rest of the cast, although obviously much more skilled than their leading lady, don’t fare much better, given the idiotic paces they are put through.  Rathbone, who does have a radiantly handsome smile, provides one sweet moment when he serenades his confused beloved with a ukulele, a tiny respite from all the mindlessly murky doings in Paradise.