Hong Kong Family 過時・過節 (2022) Dir: TSANG Hing Weng Eric [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Hong Kong Family    Hong Kong Family Film Poster R


Release Date: 2022

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: TSANG Hing Weng Eric

Writer: Lou Shiu-Wa, Leung Chuen-Yeung (Screenplay),

Starring: Teresa Mo, Tse Kwan Ho, Edan Lui, Hedwig Tam, Angela Yuen,


Family can be like shoelaces. The tighter they are, the more they hurt. That sentiment is on display in Hong Kong Family, the feature film debut of Erik Tsang. Drawing on personal experiences, Tsang cooks up a feast of an ensemble drama where each character’s inability to communicate forms the ingredients for the split experienced by a working-class family of four during a Winter Solstice dinner and the slow process of washing away the bitter aftertaste years later.

Even before the dinner tensions are cooking away as the family dip in and out of arguments while trapped together in a car as they deliver ingredients to the matriarch’s house where the meal will take place. The hen-pecking mother, Ling (Teresa Mo) and taciturn father, Chun (Tse Kwan Ho), bicker over his job loss, tight finances, and moving home. Their shy daughter, Ki (Hedwig Tam), uses her ear phones to confine herself to her own world while their hotshot son, Yeung (Edan Lui), overconfidently plays peacemaker when not playing his Sony PSP. Nobody is communicating. All are stewing away with different flavours of resentments.

Anger explodes at the matriarch’s house as food is being prepared. Ling cuts her finger. This sets in motion a chain of events resulting in her brother Ming (Joey Leung) storming out after their mother accuses him of trying to steal money while looking for a bandage. His fury pushes Ling to demand a divorce from Chun and then his refusal and recalcitrance over the issue results in a screaming match where a knife is wielded and Yeung is slapped down by his father.

This moment of raw fury has the perfect lead-up because we have seen the tension boil away. When the lid pops off it is shocking because the actors wrench furious performances out of themselves that will be enough to terrify viewers. It also serves to set the main course of the drama, the reckoning that takes place with that fateful day as the family learns how to communicate.

The film flashes forward eight years into the future and introduces us to Ming’s daughter, Joy (Angela Yuen), who arrives from England to get the family to reconcile for a Winter Solstice Dinner, one of her father’s wishes.

The tone of the film becomes more contemplative as Joy’s interventions allow us to see how each character has fared, how they have stewed in their resentments and regrets, and how they find solace in ironic pseudo-family set-ups that have left them isolated from their nearest and dearest.

Ling acts as housekeeper to a father and son who provide the idealised family she craves while she ignores her own. Chun, feeling guilt, quietly works away on a plan to move to the mainland without ever expressing his thoughts and feelings. Yeung refuses to communicate with the humans in his life while venting his feelings of regret to a VR programme he is developing. Ki can only talk about her sense of failure and lack of connection through meeting a Malaysian social media influencer who is a total stranger. Each of their situations can only be temporary as death, emigration, and the passage of time allows tempers to cool and reflection to build about their status as a family.

Audiences are allowed to savour snippets of each of their lives. The strong performances of the cast who make their characters sympathetic, their situations truthful (no matter how unrealistic the whole VR tech demo is). The film’s pacing can be sluggish and some storylines don’t have as much substance to them but patience pays off. By the end, it can be said that Tsang, his co-writers and cast consistently capture something honest about human behaviour through each of the characters and the drama on screen captures something of the pressures on working-class Hong Kongers. Audiences will recognise the failures of old-fashioned patriarchal behaviour exhibited by the father, the difficulty in listening to others and accepting their different choices on the part of the mother, the ordeal involved in letting go of anger for Yeung, and, ultimately facing up to and accepting failure in order to move on. The whole family undergo transformations that comes out in emotionally resonant acting from a highly effective cast who make the characters feel believable. and give us enough flavours and textures to savour to make this film worth gorging on

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