|The Good Man From Wuhan
The Red String Of Fate – The Theme Of “The Good Man From Wuhan”
Chinese legend says two people connected by a red thread are destined to be lovers.
STATUS: Script written.
LOGLINE: His first three daughters’ marriages have failed, so Henry Chan is determined to set up his youngest with a man from his home town in China; which seems like a match made in heaven, but may be the marriage that goes to hell.
COMPANY NOTES: Project remains open for investor interest. Eric Nemoto has written the script, which originated from a storyline initially conceptualized by both Eric and his then YBS business partner, Jon Brekke, after Jon was inspired to create the story by Jari Vepsalainen, a business associate in Hong Kong (see presentation to follow). Financing was sought from sources in China at the time, with popular Hong Kong Cantopop songwriter, recording-artist, and entertainer, Kay Tse (pictured above), then expressing interest in playing one of the lead roles. Samples of her songs and videos can be found on her playlist.
The presentation above documents how the script, The Good Man From Wuhan, from concept to polished and professional first draft, was written within the YBS prescribed deadline of 30 days; in this case three weeks. Note: Presentation is without sound.
A gust of wind begins our story. It takes us to the home of Jianguo “Henry” Chan, 66, who is a successful Chinese businessman who lives in Hawaii and still grieves for his wife, Sulyn, aka “Doris,” who has been dead for 10 years. He still wears a “red string of fate” on his ring finger, a symbol of his everlasting love for her. He looks at his mantle of family photographs and it brings him sadness. Though a widower, he doesn’t live alone. His large house is also the home to his four daughters, Grace, 32, a divorcee with two kids, Marilyn, 30, with one kid, Jane, 28, yet another divorcee but with no kids, who all work for him at his imported Chinese furniture store in Honolulu. Finally, there is Anne, 26, a recent masters degree graduate, who is dating David Lee, 26, a young local Chinese man who has yet to find himself.
Because of the failures of his first three daughters’ marriages, Henry only sees the same future for Anne – marriage to a man who will not be her lifetime soul mate, like Doris was to him. This is reinforced at a luncheon he has for Anne, celebrating her graduation, when David arrives late due to having to stay longer to cover for someone at his part-time job, and his friends tell him of the problem of local young men these days who don’t know about the sacrifices of their generation. “I have grand kids who think the Cultural Revolution was some kind of artistic rebirth of the country,” Henry’s friend, Mun Bao, says.
Back at his office the next day, Henry has a Skye conversation with his business contact in Hong Kong, John Varrett, 58, and a Chinese man, Cheng “Chad” Wong, 35, who he recently brought in to handle Henry’s account on the departure of a long-time employee. Chad immediately impresses Henry. He’s older, has worked in the company for 10 years, and appears to have the work ethic and respect for elders indicative of the ways of old China. To top it off Chad says he hails from Wuhan, the same city that Henry was born and raised in. The mention of his home town draws Henry to the past, 1966, and we see him as a young man being taken to the airport by his father amidst the tension and turmoil of the enfolding Cultural Revolution. He waves goodbye to his father, who returns a fatalistic wave. Back in the present Henry says to himself, “Wuhan.”
The next day, Henry and his friends, Wei, Mun Bao, and Kwai Fong, partake in group exercises with younger students at Kwai Fong’s kung fu school. Afterwards, Henry and Wei walk in Chinatown. Wei spots a flower shop. He suggests that if Henry is going to Doris’ grave later that they can stop inside to get some. Henry hesitates. “I usually go to…” he says. But Wei interjects, “You are such a creature of habit, Jianguo. Do something different.” Wei leads Henry inside. The proprietor is Hui Zhong, a pretty Chinese woman in her 50s who goes by “Flora.” As Henry orders chrysanthemums, Flora’s pleasant inquisitiveness brings forth a discussion of how special Doris must have been. As they walk from the shop Henry exclaims, “The nerve of that woman to talk of personal matters.” Wei smiles, “It’s the spice of life.” During a break from his part-time job of coaching little kids basketball, David talks with Anne about his future and their future. He doesn’t know what he wants to do yet but knows he can’t work for Anne’s father because he doesn’t want to disappoint him doing a job he knows is not meant for him. Anne utters her frustration. David works as a counter help for Fedex, tends bar at Hank’s cafe and picks up other jobs, all on a part-time basis. “What do you want to do, David?” Anne laments.
Another Skype session with Hong Kong has Henry talking with Chad once again, checking over what Henry wants to order for his store. He inquires more about Chad as a person and finds that his father died in the Cultural Revolution. This hits a chord with Henry. When more talk reveals that Chad has no time for a girl friend as he has to work and has rarely traveled, Henry makes up his mind and decides that Chad shall come out to Hawaii. “If you’re going to supply me with products I need you to see my operation.” After work, Henry decides to visit Flora’s. He orders his flowers and comments that he notices that her flowers last a lot longer than the other store’s. Flora smiles. She knows it’s a friendly overture and responds modestly, “Well that’s good. Of course nothing should wilt that soon.” Henry realizes in her comment that she notices he goes to the grave often. At night, Henry has a serious discussion with Anne about David and his plans for the future. Anne argues that Henry never prodded her sisters about their boyfriends and eventual husbands. Henry retorts that maybe he should’ve for where are all of them now? He tells Anne that Chad is coming for a week and asks that she show him around. Anne ponders, “Dad, are you trying to fix me up? Because I’m with David!” But as she storms off, Henry breaks into a smile.
The next day Henry visits Doris’ grave at Diamond Head Memorial Park. As he does the wind curiously picks up. As he gets to his car in the parking lot the wind is stronger still. Inside his car he turns the ignition and the engine won’t start. Later, with his hood opened, he calls and leaves a message for his mechanic, Tony, to give him a tow. At the airport, Anne and David greet Chad. As Chad is good looking, dressed well, and has the look of a winner, David’s defensive instincts are beginning to surface. Back at the memorial park, Flora, walking her dog, sees Henry standing next to his car and walks over. She convinces him to wait for his mechanic at her house. As Anne and David drive with Chad, his amazement for everything Hawaii amuses Anne. David smirks. They drop off David at Hank’s. David tells Anne he’ll call her later. Anne nods and drives off. David watches them leave and the wheels of suspicion begin to turn in his head. At Flora’s place, she and Henry have tea and start to hit it off. Henry finds out that Wei has told her all about him. Flora, a widower herself, seems the perfect match for Henry until she inquires about the red string on his ring finger. Henry tells her of a Chinese legend where lovers promise to wear strings on their fingers as a symbol of their everlasting love. As Henry is now lost in his remembrances, Flora knows she asked one too many question. Henry’s cell rings. It’s Tony. Henry leaves, but senses an awkwardness in his departure with Flora. She had him in the palm of her hands and let him get away. Back with Anne and Chad, she enters the upscale hotel room that her dad got him and is amazed. They take in the view of beautiful Waikiki Beach. Back at his car, Henry gives the keys to Tony and he gets inside and starts the engine, no problem. Henry is both amazed and perplexed. Driving home, he passes Flora’s house and thinks about his time with her.
At night, the Chans have Chad over for dinner and he is a hit. He’s witty, conversational, and when Anne is called upon to cite all of her father’s traits, he relates it to Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan.” “At the end of the play we are left to figure out how a good person can possibly come to a good end in a world that, in essence, is not good.” Chad says as he raises his glass, “To Mister Chan, the good man from Wuhan.” As everyone joins in the toast, it is very apparent that Chad has hit all the right notes and Henry could not be more pleased. Even Anne seems entranced. But Anne’s sisters express concern behind their smiling faces. Later, as they smoke cigars on the outdoor deck, Henry confides in Chad his family history. He tells of how his father, a former professor at Wuhan University, was branded a traitor by the Red Guards and made to confess his wrongful ways at numerous “struggle meetings,” until one day he hung himself from the very tree that Henry used to climb on as a little boy in the back of their house. “I’m sorry about your father.” Henry says, “It was a terrible time for all. But we persevere don’t we Wuhan?” Chad solemnly responds, “Yes. We persevere.”
Chad becomes the personal favorite of Henry. He takes him on a tour of his store and notices that he and Anne are rapidly warming up to each other. Anne continues to show him the sights of Hawaii and they get to know one another better. She shares with him how her mother passed away from cancer ten years previously as they climb Diamond Head and Chad’s empathy draws them closer. She receives a call on her cell and it’s from David, who is waiting for her at their favorite place at a beach park. When she apologizes and explains it is because she forgot about the time because she was with Chad, it angers an already displeased David and they hang up on each other. As they get to the top of Diamond Head and take in the sunset, Anne and Chad find that they are drawing closer to each other.
Wei visits Flora and their metaphorical conversation is not about flowers but about Henry. Despite Wei’s contention that Henry enjoys her company, Flora is unsure. The ghost of Doris seems to still be around. Persistent Wei nonetheless invites her to his house for Chinese New Years as Henry will be there. At night Anne takes Chad to a “First Friday” (Honolulu’s once a month block party) celebration in Chinatown. David, working a food booth for Hank’s, spots them together and his growing suspicion of the two grows. A high school friend of his, Brian, now a cop transferred to the Chinatown beat, stops by his booth. “Hey that’s Anne over there eh? Who’s the guy?” David tells Brian who he is and that he’s just a business associate of Anne’s father. But his tone doesn’t match his words and Brian picks up on this. The next day David calls Anne, who is at the beach, from his job at Fedex. The topic of course is Chad and what appears to be Anne’s overzealous attention to following her father’s orders of showing him a good time. They end up having a big fight, and when Anne hangs up we see that she is at the beach with Chad. He apologizes for the trouble he seems to be causing. “No,” Anne responds, “I’m sorry. David is just so…” His solace turns into a romantic evening where he charms her with his philosophical wit and proverbs and then does the unbelievable. He takes out a diamond ring and proposes. Anne, angry at David, wanting to be loyal to her father, and simply amazed at the spontaneity of Chad, is somewhat swept off her feet. Somehow, she thinks that maybe destiny is calling her. She accepts. The next day Anne visits David at the park where he coaches basketball for a small stipend from the city, and tells him of her intention to marry. David’s world is forever changed. As Anne puts up an assured front, her sisters know otherwise. Her decision was a spontaneous one that is fraught with doubt. There’s something they can’t place about Chad. He’s too perfect, too cordial, too witty, and there’s an air about him they can’t quite pin point. In essence, no one really knows who this Chad is.
The suspicions turn out to be entirely valid. Chad picks up his friends from the airport, Gang Wo, Bao Hsu, and Hu Feng, who have flown in from China to be in his wedding party. As they lounge in his hotel room they disclose themselves to be a sordid bunch, bent on gambling, drinking, finding loose women, and fleecing people out of their money, and Chad is their ringleader. As they listen in awe, Chad tells them that he actually researched Henry and knew he likely was looking to match make his daughter. “You don’t get asked if you have a girlfriend unless someone wants to know.” He also knew that Henry came from Wuhan and so slipped in the fact that he was born there when initially the talk started to veer to Singapore. “He doesn’t know about Singapore?” Chad is asked. “No.” “But why was he really interested in you?” Hu asks. “Because I’m from Wuhan,” Chad smiles. The men trade looks and laugh. “How fucked up is that?” Bao laughs. Through their continuing conversation we discover that Chad is the leader of this conniving rat pack of thieves, who purposely learns Chinese proverbs to impress the ladies and actually already had in his possession the diamond ring he used to propose to Anne; something he bought at a discount in Hong Kong as an investment. “Yeah, but marriage Chad,” Gang shakes his head, “I mean it won’t be the same. How you gonna roll with us if you’re dragging your ball and chain?” Chad laughingly responds. “What ball and chain? This bitch won’t use me. I’ll use her. After we’re married, Mister dumb shit Chan will be more than happy to back his favorite son-in-law from Wuhan in our own casino eh? And ball and chain nothing. We always have our trips. She’s a liberated woman, but she’s still a CHINESE woman. Dumb as shit. She won’t question our business trips. There will always be Bangkok.” The men hoot and holler. Chad has revealed himself to be the ultimate con man user who has seemingly hit the mother load.
Innocent and naive Anne doesn’t know what’s happening. All she knows is that Chad’s friends have been flown in by Henry as they get ready for the wedding. Henry himself is blind to everything and beams with pride. To him, he’s found the perfect match for his daughter that will end the losing streak set by her sisters. Yet those around them aren’t so sure. As her sisters help Anne pick out her gown and plan the wedding and reception they sense her latent apprehension, particularly on the prospect of moving to China and living with Chad. Henry’s friends are also suspect about the perfect future son-in-law. And though he passes it off as matters of no consequence, Henry too feels something is not right. When he offers to also fly in Chad’s mother and brother from Wuhan for the wedding, Chad instinctively knee jerks “No,” that he doesn’t have to, and then explains that they have never been out of China and really don’t care to. When he takes Chad to visit Kwai Fong’s kung fu school, Chad’s street instincts come forth in his attempts at back handed compliments that Kwai Fong’s school is “almost” like a real school in China. Suspicions are somewhat confirmed when Chad participates in a match with one of the students and can’t help but savagely beat his opponent up. Though Chad later apologizes profusely for getting carried away the dye is cast for Henry’s friends. Henry tries in vain to cover his inner thoughts. “Guess he surprised us all huh?” He smiles. But his friends see through Henry, and more so through Chad. “No,” Kwai Fong says.
At Wei’s Chinese New Year’s party, Kwai Fong questions Henry on what he’s thinking and suggests that marriage should be planned out and that he doesn’t know anything about Chad. Henry confirms he’s doing just that, and that his first three daughters he just left it to them simply because they were in “love” and look what happened. “So you’re not able to swat the flies on your head so you take a sledgehammer?” Kwai Fong asks. Meanwhile Flora arrives in a beautiful dress and fully made up and heads turn to her. “Oh what a surprise,” Wei feigns, “Look who’s here Jianguo!” Henry stares at Flora who smiles back. She looks dazzling. Later, as they talk alone in the back yard, a mysterious gust of wind literally blows Flora into the arms of Henry and she seizes the moment to tell him she loves him. Henry is just about ready to confess the same when after trying to brush the strands of hair from Flora’s face he notices the red string around his ring finger and pulls back. He apologizes to Flora. In tears, she understands and leaves the party. From inside the house, Wei sees all this and shakes his head.
At Hank’s bar, Brian steps in to introduce himself to Hank as the new cop on the beat and then asks about his employee and friend, David. Hank points him to the sorry figure in the corner of the bar drowning himself in his beer. David tells Brian how stupid he was to have lost Anne to Chad. “I waited too long. But… she’s better off now. I deserve it.” Brian, now knowing Chad’s name, tells David how he and his partner were called to a local Mahjong joint after a bunch of Chinese street toughs wrecked the place after they were asked to leave because the proprietor thought they were cheating. “He said the lead guy’s name was Cheng Wong.” Brian says. Brian goes on to mention that the proprietor didn’t want to press charges because he knew that these guys were bad, dangerous. David, realizing the danger Anne is getting into, runs out of the bar and goes to Henry’s store and tries to explain to him that while he wasn’t right for Anne, Chad would be worse. But it is apparent that he has been drinking so he comes across to Henry as merely a loser who can’t take the fact that he’s lost Anne. They get into a heated argument and Henry asks him to leave and stay out of Anne’s and Chad’s way. But as he leaves, Anne’s sisters start to think otherwise.
The sisters start doing their own investigating. Jane tracks down his mother and brother in Wuhan and find they did not know he was getting married and moreover don’t care. He left ten years ago and hasn’t been in touch with them and they don’t even consider him as part of the family. Grace and Marilyn visit the jewelry store where Chad said he bought Anne her ring and discover that the owner didn’t recognize Chad’s photo blown up off of his Facebook page. They try to reason with Henry but he is adamant. “I never asked you girls for anything. So you BACK OFF on this one. He’s from Wuhan. The last man I knew who came from there did pretty good as far as I’m concerned. He’s worth the benefit of the doubt.” As Henry storms off the sisters seem at their wit’s end. They can see already that Anne is being placed on a subservient level in the way Chad is relating to her in front of his cronies. At the ensuing wedding rehearsal Chad’s friends, spurred on by drinking, are silly and develop loose lips. During a break in the kitchen, Bao lets out that Chad is the master of proverbs and because of that it gets him far in business and with women. Anne’s sisters are stunned as Bao takes another beer from the refrigerator and returns to the group. Later they frantically try to persuade their little sister of the grave mistake she is making, but Anne, in spite of her doubts feels she must go through with the wedding. Henry, hearing the girls argue upstairs takes the car keys and drives out into the night to think. It is a windy night and the power goes out. The girls leave to stay at the hotel. At night, Anne dreams of her most precious time, of being with David down at the beach at their favorite picnic table. After spending some time in the parking lot of the memorial park thinking, Henry drives out and spots Flora’s house. He thinks for a moment but then drives away.
In the morning, on the day of the wedding, Henry speaks to Doris’ photo on the mantle. “Our last child, Doris. We did it.” He gets a call from Grace telling him to bring Anne’s shoes for in the dark the previous night she pulled the wrong pair. Henry does so. But as he searches and finds Anne’s shoes he comes upon their prom picture and discovers it has the same love in their eyes that he and Doris share in their wedding photo. Regret begins to etch upon his expression. He goes back down to see an incoming Skype call from John in Hong Kong and has a conversation. John offers his congratulations but also his surprise and during their talk it is revealed that Chad was really not the boy wonder that Henry initially thought him to be. He had been sent to John to be on his leash since he and his friends wrecked a bar when he was in Singapore and the year before that he was accused of beating up a Filipino hostess in a bar in the Philippines. The worst revelation comes when John explains to Henry that Chad never really knew his father and that he had been in prison not during the Cultural Revolution, but after it. “He was a Red Guard, Henry,” John says, “He was accused of leading the struggle meetings at Wuhan University.” Henry is horrified. Chad’s father could very well have been the one who interrogated his own father that caused him to commit suicide.
At the hotel, everything is set. But Chad and his buddies are already boozed up. Henry sees this. He drops off Anne’s shoes and notices Flora there. She has delivered all of the flower arrangements. He approaches her and apologizes for their last meeting at Wei’s house. Their longing for each other is evident. But the inevitable kiss is interrupted by Jane, who enters the room and says, “Oh hi Dad. Is that Anne’s shoes? Great.” Henry nods to Flora. They will continue some other time. He checks in on Anne. Wearing her wedding gown she reminds him of her mother. It is apparent that Anne is filled with apprehension but it is too late now. In the wedding procession, as Chad and his buddies wait in the front, and all of Anne’s sisters, serving as her maids of honor, have walked down the aisle, Henry and Anne stand in the back as “Here Comes The Bride” plays. But a gust of wind blows and Henry senses it as the final sign. With the crowd growing curious, he holds Anne back and tells her a story of his love for her mother and then asks her the ultimate question, “Anne, is this the man you love?” “No, Dad,” Anne cries. Henry soothes her and tells her to go to David before it’s too late. He hands her his valet ticket. Anne, in shock, with everyone watching them, takes the ticket and runs away. Her sisters cheer. Chad goes into a rage, and when Jane tells her that the wedding isn’t ever happening, he viciously slaps her. Henry, incensed by this, steps over and punches Chad to the ground. But Chad rises and tells Henry no one does this to him and gets away alive. Henry’s friends stand by him. Chad laughs and ridicules the old men, saying are they crazy? Do they really think they can stand up to him and his friends? “No,” Kwai Fong responds, as his students from the kung fu school gather around them, “But twenty might.” Chad and his friends are forced to back off and go back to China. Anne, running frantically in search for David while wearing her wedding dress, finds him at their special spot on the beach. She relates the same story that her father has just told her and it resonates with both she and David. They kiss. Their future is back on track.
Days later at Doris’ grave, Henry thanks her for preventing the grave mistake that he would have made. He tells her that all of the girls will find their own way. “It’s not up to us. It’s up to them. That’s the way it has to be.” Henry says as he looks at Doris’ gravestone, “We did our part. We did good, Doris, you and me, we really did.” After a moment Henry begins to ask the question he has never asked, the reason he could never get over Doris. But before he can finish, the red string on his finger magically releases itself and a gust of wind blows it off into the sky. Henry chases it to no avail. But he realizes what it means. Doris has released him and she wants him to move on with his life. A melancholy smile etches on his expression as he looks to the sun shining behind the clouds. Later, as he drives away from the memorial park, he sees Flora’s house again. This time, however, instead of driving away, he turns and drives to it. Henry, the good man from Wuhan, will begin the next phase of his life.