Media Partners Slovak Queer Film Festival

Film Review: Suk Suk (2019) by Ray Yeung

A chance encounter of two men might turn into a full-blown romance.

Review by

When it comes to queer cinema, we do not see the romance between two older people, especially not in the surrounding that is quite traditional and family values-driven as it is, or at least was, the case with Hong Kong. “”, the third featured film directed by Ray Yeung, who is considered to be one of the important figures of queer cinema because of his earlier works “Cut Sleeve Boys” and “Front Cover”, is one of the rare films that deals with the topic. The film premiered last autumn at Busan, while the European Premiere took place at Berlinale.

“Suk Suk” is screening at Slovak Queer Film Festival

Pak, played by the legendary Taiwan-based Hong Kong actor Tai-Bo (known for his work in Jackie Chan movies with “Police Story” being the highlight), is a seventy-year-old cab driver. He still works not because of the financial needs, but as a mean to keep himself active. While at home, with his wife Ching (Patra Au), his son and his family and his daughter and her fiancé coming occasionally, he prefers to sit on the side and mind his own business rather than getting involved with family affairs.

One time on his daily route, he makes a pause to take a walk in the park. This is where he meets Hoi (, another veteran actor glimpsed in, among others, Wong Kar Wai's “2046”), a slightly younger retiree. Hoi is divorced, but lives with his son Wan (Lo Chun Yip), who is a devoted Christian, and the son's family in his small apartment. Both men are gay and clearly interested in each other and both of them are coming from a society of past times that left them no choice, but to spend their lives hiding their sexuality or even not knowing anything about it. The initial need for a quick release of the tension might lead to a full-blown romance that, for obvious reasons, must remain under the radar.

The romance itself is written and directed with precision by Ray Yeung, checking all the boxes, but not necessarily in a cliched manner. The shallow focus in the camerawork by Leung Ming-Kai becomes more and more obvious in the scenes two men share, as the hint that the outside world ceases to exist in those moments, and the same goes for the gentle piano score by Veronica Lee, highlighting the tenderness of the romance itself.

At the same time, Yeung is also interested in the world that surrounds them which at first seems just drab, but, as Pak gets more into the senior gay scene Hoi is already a sort of member of, the viewers are about to see how unjust that world is, especially for the gay men of the previous generations who are being left behind and let down in every aspect of their lives. There is a lot of emotional investment on Yeung's part, but the authenticity is also preserved. The film itself was based on a book of interviews of older gay men from Hong Kong, collected and selected by the sociology professor Travis S. K. Kong, and keeping the authentic feel of it was one of the principal tests Yeung passed with flying colours.

The authenticity is also present in the actors' performances. That does not go for just the scenes they share as a couple, including but not limited to the scenes of physical intimacy, but is more the case with the scenes both men are on their own, in their “natural” family surroundings. The intra-generational and marital conflicts are played masterfully, due to the actors' effort and also the careful writing and directing.

While being subdued rather than flamboyant, “Suk Suk” could be mistaken for a drab film because it exists in a bit of a drab world. But in that way, it still does its characters and their stories justice, offering another aspect of life of the community that is rarely accepted by the society.

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