Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m
A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th
When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy Pang – Tracey, Li Jun, 2018), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.
The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.
Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk. Grandpa points out that he’s not allowed to keep pets under his housing agreement, but the grandson, unperturbed, points out that grandpa can keep the dog if he gets a doctor’s note. A trip to get the dog registered (and pay a hefty $700 fee) is followed by the boy adding his number to grandpa’s phone so he can send him pictures of the dog settling in.
Mr. Chan makes a home for the dog on two towels on the floor and visits the doctor to pick up the form for the dog and a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form. “I’ll sign it for you now,” says the doctor, adding, “then you can talk about it with your family later.”
Grandpa is used to cleaning up his bathroom floor after having an accident, so is surprised to find his grandson doing this for him before school and has to shivvy him out of the door so the boy won’t be late. When the pair later visit the vet, they learn that the dog probably doesn’t have long to live. Sure enough, it dies at grandpa’s soon afterwards. And shortly after that, we’re at that opening scene at the hospital again… Life must go on, though, and Ka Chun and his mother visit the dogs’ home where the boy strikes up a friendship with a beautiful, healthy black dog…
This is a beautiful, gentle little film tackling the taboo subjects of natural death and dying head on. Ageing actor Paul Carr is perfectly cast as the grandpa, combining the seen-it-all wisdom of the old with the infirmity of a body where the muscle has largely wasted away to leave not much more than skin and bones. His extraordinary, gaunt face seems almost to accentuate this state of being. Karson Chan’s energetic youngster stands out as quite a contrast, yet the cross-generational bond that forms between the dying old timer and the youngster with his whole life ahead of him is profoundly moving.
The short is leant an extra poignancy by the clearly much-loved DogB Leung, the dog who played Ah-fuk, whose dates 14/06/2002 – 6/03/2019 appear in the end credits alongside his photograph.
Old Man And A Dog played online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th.