Saturday, May 18, 2024

All Shall Be Well threatened to break my heart -- and even if it didn't, did move me a great deal! (Film review)

Hong Kong poster for this Hong Kong film that
had its world premiere at Berlin earlier this year
All Shall Be Well (Hong Kong, 2024)
- Ray Yeung, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Patra Au, Li Lin-lin, Tai Bo, Hui So-ying, Leung Chun-hang, Fish Liew
For the record: All Shall Be Well was the opening film for this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival.  But by the time I got to the ticketing counter to get my HKIFF tickets (around one hour after ticketing began), tickets for both of its screenings had sold out!  So I had to wait until it began is theatrical run at the beginning of this month to do so!  Then, after viewing its teaser trailer (which is achingly beautiful but also sends out achingly painful vibes), I must admit to hesitating a bit to go watch it as I was afraid that it'd turn me into a puddle of tears!
Eventually though, I did go view All Shall Be Well -- and am so very glad I did so.  I'll come right out and say it: this really is a masterfully crafted film, handsomely lensed (by Leung Ming-kai) with characters that come across as very real and human (thanks in no small part to the movie's great ensemble cast), and with an important as well as multi-faceted story to tell.
All Shall Be Well centres on Angie (essayed ever so well by Patra Au) who we first see as one half of a loving couple along with Pat (portrayed by the luminous Li Lin-lin, in her first film appearance in decades).  Two former factory girls who ended up owning a factory and now living a retired life that appears full of contentment and comfort, they have good friends (the closest of whom are lesbian couples, like themselves); and while Angie doesn't get along great with her biological family, she looks to have been thoroughly accepted by Pat's family -- her brother Shing (played by Tai Bo, one of the lead actors of Ray Yeung's Suk Suk), his wife Mei (played by Hui So-ying), and their son Victor (portrayed by Leung Chun-hang) and daughter Fanny (essayed by Fish Liew).
But after Pat unexpectedly passes away one night, tensions and rifts appear in Angie's relationship with Pat's remaining relatives.  It's bad enough when Mei and Shing decide to prioritise a fung shui master's suggestion regarding what to do with Pat's remains over what Angie remembered and tell them had been Pat's wish -- and decide that Shing knows better at what time of the day Pat had been born rather than Angie (who, to make it clear, Pat had spent far more of her life with and spoken to than Shing).  But what really made things bad was Pat not having left a will and Angie (consequently) not being legally recognised as having shared a life and, among other things, an apartment with Pat -- and it becoming apparent that Shing and his family covet that apartment and don't think Angie had any right to it after all.
Seeing how great things had been for Angie and Pat when Pat was alive makes what happens with her family after her death so upsetting.  Frankly, it feels like a betrayal of Angie.  But what makes All Shall Be Well a really excellent work is that it also gets the viewer understanding where night shift security guard Shing, hotel cleaner Mei, Uber driver Victor and Fanny (who lives in a rat-infested apartment with her husband and two kids) are coming from, even if not one hundred percent agreeing with or approving of their perspectives and actions.  This also makes the film not only a touching lesbian drama but a thought-provoking and thoughtful meditation on family plus examination of social class and prevailing cultural mores in contemporary Hong Kong society too.    
By the way, I ended up not tearing up all that much when viewing All Shall Be Well -- at least not outwardly.  I could feel my heart aching and threatening to break at times during the movie though -- but also swelling and just generally feeling very much moved at other points in it!  
My rating of the film: 9.0

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