叔．叔 (Suk Suk)
Hong Kong, 2019, 92’, Cantonese
Directed by: Ray Yeung
Script: Ray Yeung
Photography (color): Leung Ming-kai
Editing: Nose Chan
Art Direction: Albert Poon
Music: Veronica Lee
Producers: Michael J Werner, Teresa Kwong, Sandy Yip, Chowee Leow
Cast: Tai Bo (Pak), Ben Yuen (Hoi), Patra Au (Ching), Lo Chun-yip (Wan), Kong To (Chiu), Lam Yiu-sing (social worker), Wong Hiu-yee (Fong), Zheng (Yu Yixin), Lau Ting-kwan (Joyce), Shmily (Dior), Gordon Wong (Lok), Pun Chi-sin (Lei Lei), Wong Chin-yu (Grace), Wong Ka-wing (Fei)
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
Premiere status: Italian Premiere
A sensitive tale of romance between two elderly closeted gay men lies at the heart of Ray Yeung’s Suk Suk, a prime example of the smaller, socially conscious Hong Kong works that have won acclaim in recent years. On its full release this May after a successful run of festival play and awards, the picture not only took local LGBT drama to a wide audience in mainstream cinemas, but delivered a poignant portrait of family and community life too.
As the film opens, viewers meet taxi driver Pak (Tai Bo) as he picks up his granddaughter from school, then enjoys a meal with his wife and middle-aged kids. But when Pak is at work, he takes time out to go cruising for men in public toilets. It’s on one such detour that he spots Hoi (Ben Yuen), a retiree quietly sitting in a park, and the seeds of a relationship are planted. Soon there’s messaging, a trip to a café and visits to a gay sauna frequented by elder men. Yet as their romance blooms, each man feels the pull of family. Pak’s home life with his wife (Patra Au) may be strained but he cares for her and is devoted to his son and daughter, Hoi lives with his son Wan (Lo Chun-yip) plus Wan’s family, and both Pak and Hoi are doting grandparents. Clearly, getting this affair to work won’t be straightforward.
Inspired by the book Oral Histories of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong by sociologist Travis Kong, Suk Suk sees the relationship of Pak and Hoi play out in a measured, gentle manner. Ray Yeung’s smooth direction captures down-to-earth and intimate scenes of both the pair’s time together and moments with family, from sensuous liaisons at the sauna to numerous meal scenes. The dichotomy faced by Pak and Hoi – between being able to shine in their true colours, as one activist-minded senior puts it, and preserving family life – is handled with subtlety, and the focus on elder figures joins that theme in setting the film apart from other Hong Kong dramas. Yeung also explores issues through a gay men’s social group Hoi is part of, introducing elderly LGBT Hongkongers’ concerns on care and discrimination. (As for the title, the Cantonese term suk suk, translating as “uncle,” is used to describe and address older men.)
Helping Suk Suk stand out too are fine performances. Screen veteran Tai Bo’s low-key and nuanced turn as Pak earned him Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards, while Ben Yuen likewise impresses as Hoi. Stage performer Patra Au scored Best Supporting Actress for her complex part as Pak’s worried wife, and Lo Chun-yip is memorable as Hoi’s grumbly son.
While much of the acclaim Suk Suk has received since its festival rollout last year may rest on the performances and the singular take on gay romance, the feature offers further riches in its portrait of the city and citizens. Just as Ann Hui did with The Way We Are (2008), Yeung looks to small pockets of society and moments of urban tranquillity. A social centre, the sauna and especially street markets are presented as vital community hubs; locations in a park and beside the harbour present breathing space; and viewers are drawn in to domestic affairs, like Pak’s largely unspoken concern for his daughter. At a time when Hong Kong has been gripped at length by social and political pressures, sharp polarisation and deep anxiety, Suk Suk’s calm approach offers audiences a welcome chance to take in and reflect on society’s gentler moments and people’s personal challenges and bonds.
Hong Kong-born Ray Yeung briefly practised law in the UK before shifting gear to work in TV, advertising and film. After directing several shorts including A Chink in the Armour (1995), he made his feature debut with the London-set comedy Cut Sleeve Boys (2006). Following a move to New York to study film at Columbia University, Yeung shot more short films and his second feature, the romance drama Front Cover (2015), before returning to Hong Kong. Yeung has also directed for theatre and commercials, and is a board member and curator for the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
2006 – Cut Sleeve Boys
2015 – Front Cover
2019 – Suk Suk