Film Review: Suk Suk // 叔.叔 (2019)


叔.叔 Suk Suk, a 2019 Hong Kong film directed by 楊曜愷 Ray Yeung, opens with a man washing a taxi and ends with the same man sitting in a church. However the film's focus is neither the taxi driver's profession nor his religion. Instead, the film is about human connections, especially the twilight romance between the taxi driver Pak (potrayed by 太保 Tai Bo) and Hoi (portrayed by 袁富華 Ben Yuen). Pak (the older half), who is married and has a granddaughter, is a deeply closeted gay man while Hoi (the comparatively younger half but still old enough to be retired), who is divorced and also has a granddaughter, is only out to his gay friends but not to his Christian son (who converted Hoi to Christianity). 


The film takes on a gamut of social issues as seen through the eyes of these two men. Societal acceptance is broached through the public consultation about a gay nursing home, in which the debilitating and silencing power of gossip is explicitly brought across. The film also examines the interplay of religion with Hoi giving Pak a cross and inviting him to his church. Also, over a dining table at a gay sauna, a group of gay men and some gay couples exchange ideas of what makes a family while they eat. In a way, the last point finds a familiar parallel in the films of Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Just like Shoplifters and Like Father, Like Son, the conventional notion of family being defined by blood relations is questioned. 

This is a film without any extraordinary happenings and it portrays the central couple finding joy in the mundane, everyday activities like shopping at the market and cooking a meal together. But in this story, these uneventful activities provide some semblance of a normal life as a married couple. Framed in the context of social mores and its unspoken judgement, these moments are effortlessly poignant. The director's subtly moving and naturalistic approach is reminiscent of styles from filmmakers like Woody Allen and contemporaries Noah Baumbach and Nicole Holofcener. One might be reminded of French-American film Love Is Strange for its focus on an old gay couple and how their issues affect their family members. 

Both Tai Bo and Ben Yuen gave strong performances, especially Ben Yuen who has continued his streak from 2018's Tracey, another LGBT-themed film which focused on a transgender woman, for which he won that year's Golden Horse Award for Best Supporting Actor. 


Also noteworthy is the cinematography, which is spot-on, be it for intimate moments in the bedroom, intriguing shots of gay men in dark hallways, lively banters happening at the wet market, old folks at the park, or wide shots of scenery. The visuals command attention despite the film's slow pace.

An oldie sung by 青山 Qing Shan, 微風細雨 (which translates to Gentle breeze and drizzle) is a motif that is repeated throughout the film, timed with the couple's intimate moments, such as when they held hands in the car, their moments in the bedroom and their final parting moment. In a sadly ironic epilogue, Pak finds himself visiting the church not because he found religion but because he found a repository for the sweet memories between him and Hoi. 

Written by Tan Boon Wah

Suk Suk was the closing film of the recent Singapore Chinese Film Festival. It has competed and screened in numerous film festivals worldwide including the Berlin International Film, Golden Horse Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards.

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