Leaving in Sorrow
Hong Kong 2001
Directed by Vincent Chui.

I enjoy watching independent Hong Kong productions, but admittedly, they are rarely good. Because of low budgets, their technical accomplishments are necessarily limited. Their only strength then lies in selecting interesting subject matter and scripting appropriately. LEAVING IN SORROW has both of these strengths, and is even able to use cheap handheld digital video to add realism and interest. LEAVING IN SORROW is about the comings and goings of Hong Kong citizens, and Hong Kong itself, revolving around the handover to China, the real estate market crash, and large pro-democracy protests on the anniversary of the June 4 incident (Tiananmen Square).

In three intercut stories, we follow Reverend Lai (Tony Ho) and his wife Ivy (Ivy Ho), as his church is purchased to be demolished (just before the market crash), and his wife decides to immigrate to the states and sell their apartment, all without his input. Everyone and everything is changing around him, and he is powerless to stop it. Meanwhile Hong (Shawn Yu) works at a celebrity gossip magazine and follows around his editor, Chris (Crystal Lui), because he has fallen for her; however, she treats him as a little kid. Eventually, she finds she must confront her past, intertwined with the July 4 incident, or remain deadened to the world. Finally Ray (Duncan Lai) lives in San Francisco where he went to school, and spends his time picking up girls and having lots of sex. His father drives a mini-bus back in Hong Kong. Eventually he returns home, and gets to know about his roots in unexpected ways.

The stories are tied together by a religious parable told by Reverend Lai, that to give yourself fully to the Lord requires giving up all of your possessions, if you cannot do this, you end up turning from the lord and leaving in sorrow. Which is the better alternative? LEAVING IN SORROW is far removed from the sort of Christian propaganda films (made by companies such as Media Evangelism) that appear every year on Hong Kong screens. There is spirituality, there is a reverend, but LEAVING IN SORROW does not attempt to convert its viewers, instead, you are invited to understand the characters that appear, in all their complexity.

This was director Vincent Chui's first work, I greatly look forward to his future efforts.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 05, 2005.

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