Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Thursday, April 27, time 7.50 PM


By date


By title


Mad World

Already feted at numerous film festivals, Mad World arrives at Udine Far East Film boasting acclaim from both international cineastes and Hong Kong critics. Fresh Wave short film veteran Wong Chun directs this frank, discomfiting yet remarkably sensitive look at Tung (Shawn Yue), who suffers from bipolar disorder and must acclimate back to the world after a stint in a mental hospital. Tung was committed following a terrible in­cident involving his mentally ill mother (Elaine Jin). Prior to the incident, she had been emotionally abusive towards Tung, but while a blow-up was inevitable, it unfortunately took a much more severe form.
Tung now lives in a sub-divided flat with his estranged father Wong (Eric Tsang), who struggles to understand his son’s illness. The incident took a toll on Tung – besides losing his job and his fiancée Jenny (Charmaine Fong), he lost the respect of just about everyone he knows. Tung is now at his lowest point, but he isn’t entirely a victim. Tung can be defensive and proud, e.g., he refuses to take his anti-depressants, plus he shows up at a friend’s wedding unannounced to publicly defend his behaviour. Some of these moments may seem exaggerated, but Tung’s emotions and motivations are credible and real. Ultimately, he tries to fit in but his illness threatens to drag him further down.
It’s to Wong Chun and screenwriter Florence Chan’s credit that Mad World doesn’t be­come a Tung pity party. Tung has been dealt a tough hand but he’s clearly not a martyr, and the script makes him both sympathetic and intimidating by demonstrating how he causes pain to both himself and others. Most of these details aren’t spoon-fed; Wong Chun uses simple set-ups and long takes that require audiences to observe attentively. Acting is low-key and dialogue is largely natural. Shawn Yue puts his darker side to good use here. Yue’s slacker sensibilities are actually well suited to a depressed character, in that his passivity can be used to convey uncertainty or restrained emotion. Tung experi­ences enormous self-conflict, and Yue projects that inner tension convincingly.
However, Eric Tsang and Elaine Jin are stronger. Jin incisively channels the pain and also the pathetic, self-aware side of a mentally ill mother, while Tsang does the heaviest lifting as the concerned father. Tsang’s character is largely the audience insert; he’s the one that cares for Tung while fearing him due to his lack of understanding of bipolar disorder. The character runs the risk of being too maudlin, but Tsang hits all the right notes even when it’s his turn to cry despairingly. He also gets the big ‘pearl of wisdom’ moment but it’s an earned sentiment appropriate to the character arc of a father learning to accept his son.
Mad World is an exceptional Hong Kong film, not only in its depiction of depression, but in how it accurately portrays lower class life without grandstanding for it. Despite its settings and subject matter, it steers mostly clear of being a social critique. The most the film does in that arena is show the lack of help and kindness Hong Kong people nat­urally have towards the mentally ill, and even then the filmmakers refuse to pound the pulpit. The result is something that may feel anticlimactic – indeed the characters don’t reach a conclusion so much as switch paths in life – but there’s an honesty in portraying this conflict as something that can’t really be won. Instead, if a few characters and the audience can gleam some understanding and acceptance of Tung, then Mad World has already accomplished enough.
Ross Chen (www.lovehkfilm.com)
Film director: 
Wong Chun
Running time: 




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