Director – Steven Ma – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 97m
A young man succumbs to a debilitating psychosis in the decade following his mother’s death – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th
When Wai Wong Oli, Moritz) was three, his mother Mui (Josephine Ku) told him she’d always be there. Ten years ago, she died of cancer and Wai (Steven Ma) blames himself. He’s never been able to get past this, making himself dangerously ill. He gave up a job for a restaurant job near his parents’ home just so he’d be able to look after her. He’s a conscientious and efficient worker, so his boss gives him time off to see his mother whatever he wants, and when that doesn’t work out his grateful colleagues cover for him.
Sometimes, though, he doesn’t take the meds prescribed for him by Dr. Fung (Jennifer Yu) and goes completely to pieces. Fortunately, his schoolfriend Chi (Himmy Wong) is there for him. Thoughts of guilt and suicide are never far away.
The narrative proceeds on its course, flashing back and forth in time through Wai’s memories from when he was younger, including himself (Fong Chit Lun) at age 10 and himself in the decade leading up to his mum’s passing, in the company of both his mum and his bus driver dad Chung (Ling Hiu Wah). The palette veers increasingly towards clinical whites and depressing greens and greys, only to be resolved in a happy ending (or is it?) in which reds, blues and yellows put in more of an appearance.
The first hour plays pretty much as straight drama, with genuinely affecting scenes between Wai at various ages and his two parents both together and separately. After that as the film enters into Wai’s bereavement psychosis it moves around between drama, fantasy, mystery and ghost story occasionally flirting with both horror and violence for good measure. Mui appears as a ghost – or perhaps just a projection of Wai’s mind – to help her son finally say goodbye to her and come to terms with her death once and for all.
Or perhaps she’s a presence like the angels in Wings Of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987) who has returned to watch over her loved son and see that he comes to no harm. Either way, we see her talk with Lai (Bee Wong), the lady next to her in the cancer ward who didn’t make it either, as they discuss the respective families they’ve left behind.
Wai’s Doctor Fung Mei Sze seems deeply concerned about him, so much so that there might possibly be some sort of romantic spark there. Or perhaps not. If that’s going to happen, the twist in the final frames suggest any relationship that might develop between them is in for a rough ride.
If towards the end the proceedings threaten to tip over into melodrama, this is for the most part a sensitive and effective handling of the difficult and near universal subject of parental bereavement. It’s something of an emotional rollercoaster too – make sure you have your handkerchief at the ready for the final reel.
Till We Meet Again plays online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th.