Tin shui wai dik yat yu ye (The Way We Are)
Posted by martinteller on May 14, 2015
The widow Kwai Cheung (Hee Ching Paw) works at a supermarket, providing for her teenage son On (Chun-lung Leung). On is about to graduate high school, but seems generally apathetic about pretty much everything. Kwai befriends the elderly “Granny” Leung (Lai-wun Chan), who comes to the supermarket looking for work. They discover they live in the same building. Granny is alone, her daughter deceased, and her grandson living in far away Shitan with his father and new mother. Kwai notices how Granny struggles to make ends meet and tries to help out.
The literal translation of the title is “Days and Nights of Tin Shui Wai”. Tin Shui Wai is an area of Hong Kong dominated by the massive “New Town” public housing buildings, holding some 270,000 people. It’s known as the “City of Sadness”, plagued by social issues from crime to mental illness to domestic violence to suicide. On the surface, you can’t really tell from this movie. It’s largely a film about nice people being nice to each other. But there are tragedies and conflicts. Granny’s frustrated attempts to connect to her only family are the most overtly heartbreaking, but there’s also the discomfort Kwai feels around her own family, who appear to be in better financial shape. Kwai would rather spend her time tending to “Granny” than her own ailing mother. And On’s lack of interest and ambition perhaps hints at a larger concern about today’s aimless youth.
Or not. Director Ann Hui might simply be trying to put a pleasant face on an urban problem. She portrays these as very decent people dealing with ordinary life problems, perhaps trying to humanize a common perception of the Tin Shui Wai area as a dangerous place overrun by hoodlums. I don’t know enough about the situation to know what she’s driving at, if anything. The end result, for me at least, is a film that is easy to watch with likable characters, but doesn’t have a lot to say. And doesn’t leave me with much to say about it. At times it seems a bit too sentimental, with people staring out of windows while some precious music plays on the soundtrack.
Of the three movies I’ve seen by Hui, they seem to improve over time. Ordinary People was the weakest, A Simple Life the best, this one right in the middle. Whether or not this indicates a development of her talent or is simply coincidence, I’m not sure. I would say there’s a grace and subtlety in the latter film that seems to be lacking in the others. This one is a pleasant 3-character study, but the studies feel inconclusive. Rating: Good (78)