Director – Yeh Ka Lun – 2018 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 25m
The son of the family returns from his father in Canada to his mother in Hong Kong – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th
A block of flats seen from the walkway. Middle-aged Lai-kuen (Ellen Liu Oi Ling) spots him down below, her son Ka-kei (Sham Ka-ki from Weeds On Fire/Dian Wu Bu, Chan Chi Fat, 2016)) arriving from Canada (where he lives with his dad) pulling a wheeled suitcase. In the cramped interior of her flat, he asks about the broken door. It got stuck and the locksmith will charge $300. He shows her a mike he found on the street “so you can sing in the flat.” She asks if he wants to see Auntie Kit tonight.
So they go down to a small club with tacky illuminations on Temple Street where she sings to the audience area from a book on a music stand. While Lai-kuen and Kit (Shui Jie from Mad World / Yat Nim Mou Ming, Chun Wong, 2016 and again Weeds On Fire/Dian Wu Bu, Chan Chi Fat, 2016) chat, he helps young Chun (Lau Ching-yu) with his homework. Mum and son agree to look after Chun for the afternoon.
Mum tries some of Ka-kei’s castoffs on on Chun. Kit disciplines Chun for fighting – the boy later explains to Ka-kei in the latter’s room away from the adults that he was sticking up for his mum’s singing at Temple Street which another boy had insulted. Chun also shows Kit how to play the recorder, which instrument Kit hasn’t played since he and dad left Hong Kong for Canada.
Kit, chatting with Lai-kuen, reveals that she works at the airport during the day as well as the Temple Street gig at night in order to have enough to raise Chun. he four of them visit Temple Street where Lai-kuen has Ka-kei take a picture of Kit standing behind Chun with his recorder before Kit takes one of him with his mum. She later wants to cut Ka-kei’s hair, but he turns the tables and cuts hers instead. She gives him some money “no matter whether you live here or in Toronto”. He asks if she’s ever considered moving to Canada, but she says she’s getting old.
She sees him off at the lift door. In the apartment, she puts the folded sheet on the bed before heading down to Temple Street to sing a song about how fate keeps us apart”.
This little slice of international Hong Kong family life is beautifully observed, giving a real feel of ordinary people living in small interiors and maintaining family and friends’ networks even when their loved ones or former loved ones are living abroad. Director Yeh uses a deceptively simple series of static shots to convey time and place, allowing more than ample room for his cast of extremely able actors to do what they do and it pays dividends in terms of highly natural and watchable performances. It’s a bit like a Yasujiro Ozu movie in which nothing much happens but that nothing much is somehow extremely moving.
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