English Title: The Way We Are
Original Title: Tin shui wai dik yat yu ye 天水围的日与夜
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Ann Hui 许鞍华
Writer: Lou Shiu-wa 吕筱华
Music: Charlotte Chan 陈思乐
Cinematography: Charlie Lam 林志坚
Nina Paw 鲍起静
Leung Chun-lung 梁进龙
Chan Lai-wun 陈丽云
Yoyo Fong 方楚瑶
Clifton Ko 高志森
Idy Chan 陈玉莲
Vincent Chui 崔允信
The literal meaning of its original Chinese title is “the day and night of Tin Shui Wai”, Tin Shui Wai is a northwestern area of Hong Kong and is noted for its public housing estates, where mostly low-income families inhibit, Ann Hui’s heartfelt picture centers on a single mother Mrs. Cheung (Paw) and her teenage son Ka-on (Leung), through their kitchen-sink daily life, it cogently reflects our modern society’s interpersonal relations with spontaneous casualness and certainly Hui’s best work I’ve ever watched (I have yet to see A SIMPLE LIFE 2011)!
The film runs effortlessly to rotate around Cheung and Ka-on’s quotidian doings, Cheung works in a supermarket and Ka-on idles at their boxy apartment since it is summer vacation. Granny Leung Foon (Lai-wun Chan), a new neighbor who lost her daughter recently and her son-in-law remarried, Leung Foon’s solitary life is singled out naturally through her entry scenes (buy a paltry portion of beef for herself, the meat vendor even fastidiously complains one of her coins is black and demands a swap), records more closely to her meals (the same beef fried with cabbage being consumed in both lunch and dinner), the artistry is all in the details. Leung Foon is typically protective and penny-pinching, but her heart will gradually open to Cheung and Ka-on, since a near neighbor is better than a distant cousin, among them, a sensitive surrogate family bond is developing and culminating after a tearjerking talking heart to heart on a bus back from a fruitless attempt to visit Foon’s grandson.
Meanwhile, the backstory of Cheung and the tacit alienation between Cheung and her mother, her well-off brothers are all steadily unraveling, Cheung is a woman full of pride, she can undertake hardships, she never solicit any remuneration for bringing up two brothers, but her mother thinks it is her tomfoolery to struggle in poverty, this creates a knot between them, but family is always family, there is no grudges among them, Cheung’s swallow nest congee betokens that tellingly.
Nina Paw and Chan Lai-wun are pitch perfect in their lifelike performances (which incredibly counters their theatrical training), newcomer Chun-lung Leung is also a force of nature, here is a young boy without any rebellious traits (no gamble, no girlfriend problem, no drug abuse, no religious hindrance), his upbringing is the most laudable feat and yet Hui achieves that by no hyperbole at all. If you are a Hong Kong cinema connoisseur, you will be thrilled to see a cameo from a comely Idy Chan (15 years after her retirement from the screen).
Ann Hui is a tower of strength in current HK cinema scenery, she is less internationally-recognized than Johnny To, but her cannon is so rich and diverse and her unique mastery of humanistic care should enlist her name among the most overlooked directors of all time!