When I mention Hong Kong films in Vermont friends say yes they watch Jackie Chan movies and other fun action films with actors whose names they don't know. However Hong Kong films are not just action movies.
Ann Hui On-Wah (許鞍華), one of my favorite directors, is a highly regarded filmmaker who has made many movies in which the action is more slice of life than slice 'em up. The Way We Are, her latest movie, is about isolation and loneliness. Veteran actress Bau Hei-Jing plays a middle aged woman who lives with her teenage son played by Juno Leung. She works in the fruit department of a local supermarket. Her son is finished school and waiting for test scores that will decide his future. He lays around the house, helps his mother and hangs out with friends. An old granny, played by Chan Lai-Wun, who is not close with her family moves into their building.
The movie is set in Tin Shui Wai* located far from the center of Hong Kong which enhances the sense of isolation. The housing estate is made up of many many very tall apartment buildings. The grounds are clean as are the insides of the buildings. There is no artwork or even graffiti on the walls and the few other people we see seem to hurry by without looking at each other. Inspite of the sterileness of the housing estate the mother and son seem content and accepting of their lives. There is much daily food prepartion and eating in the movie. Mother and son in their apartment, granny alone in hers. When the mother helps granny get a job at the supermarket a friendship develops between the two woman which benefits all three people.This is a movie in which not much happens but so much does.
Cover of the DVD of The Way We Are. The DVD is available at yesasia.com. I like how the crooked high rise apartments tower over the two women.
Poster from the movie.
Film Director Ann Hui On-Wah (許鞍華). Photo from hkfilmart.com newsletter.
*Tin Shui Wai has an infamous reputation and has been called the "city of sadness" for it high unemployment rate, spouse and child abuse and suicides. A mother with her two children jumped to their deaths. The housing estates were built in anticipation of industries also locating in the area but this never happened. It's interesting that Ann Hui chose this location to show a story of people living everyday lives working and caring for each other. Lawrence Lau another director chose this same site for Besieged City a movie of troubled kids with down and out parents. Both movies came out within a year of each other and are an interesting constrast.