Mental health has never been more in the limelight and been the focus of public consciousness than now. Like many Hong Kong young directors that recently addressed “difficult” topics in their works, director Wong Wai Nap has chosen to tackle the dramatic and very actual subject of suicide among young people, school and university students in particular. His film “That Morning” was screened at the PriFest – Prishtina International Film Festival and at the “debut-dedicated” International Festival FIRST, in Xining.
The film follows a school student in Hong Kong called Aye, in her daily struggle to fit into the criteria that school, family and society have set for her. She is quiet and introverted, she doesn’t belong to the group of cute and sociable top girls of the class and her feelings for girls make her feel even more shy and lonesome. Furthermore, her family life after school is not the safe escape she would like it to be. In fact, her divorced parents use her as a way to indirectly keep fighting each other.
These pressures from school and family life affect her deeply and occasionally become overwhelming and debilitating. However, Aye has a rich power of observation and a talent for writing and a young, dedicated teacher seems to be willing to encourage the creative side and identify her inner strengths.
With “That Morning” the director seems to reinforce the theory that although poor mental health increases the risk of suicide, most people who take their own lives don’t have diagnosable conditions; very often the problem is with the environment.
Almost a documentary, “That Morning” adopts a mix of interviews and fiction to give body and poignancy to the subtle narrative, presented in the form of a “prequel to the fact”; it often plays with our perception about what will happen and it is cleverly measured in what it shows. However, the narrative can be confusing at times and it can leave you with a frustrating feeling of wanting to know more.
Formally accomplished and technically rather mature, the film is mostly on the shoulders of Lau Yi Nga, the young actress performing Aye, who carries the weight with professionalism and a naturalistic “aplomb”.
Suicide is an extremely complex matter and with his insight in Aye’s life, Wong Wai Nap points out that the environment for students and young people – not only in Hong Kong – is becoming increasingly fractured and volatile due to the state of financial, political and social high flux that characterizes our lives.
Placing the good teacher in contrast with the school, the film suggests that the institution, instead of helping the students to explore their talents, only forces them into a stressful routine where grades and numbers are the sole reality. But despite that, “That Morning” leaves you with a positive message and a welcome ray of hope.