Top 8 Hong Kong Movies About Fatherhood

With this year’s Father’s Day right around the corner, here are the Top 8 Hong Kong Movies About Fatherhood you might want to check them out (in case you haven’t done so!):

8) The Story of My Son <愛的世界> (1990)

(L-R) Cheng Pak-Lam, Wong Kwan-Yuen and Damian Lau in “The Story of My Son” (1990).

Clocking at just 75 minutes long, this has to be one of the shortest feature-length Hong Kong movies I’ve ever encountered. The kind that fits better if it’s a made-for-television movie. Released a year after Johnnie To’s critically-acclaimed and financially-successful All About Ah Long <阿郎的故事>, The Story of My Son <愛的世界> offers the same father-and-son theme that also tells a struggling father (Damian Lau) trying to raise his (two) sons (Wong Kwan-Yuen’s Lee Wing-Kin and Cheng Pak-Lam’s Lee Wing-Hong). Lau gives his all as the single father Lee Chi-Leung, while All About Ah Long <阿郎的故事>‘s Wong Kwan-Yuen displays a nuanced performance as Lee Chi-Leung’s eldest son trying to keep his family together. While the movie tends to be overwrought at times and the shockingly violent conclusion seems to be pushing it a bit too far, it remains a reasonably heartfelt minor effort by Johnnie To.

7) My Father is a Hero <給爸爸的信> (1995)

Jet Li and Xie Miao team up in “My Father is a Hero” (1995).

Director Corey Yuen has regularly collaborated with Jet Li during the peak of their careers in the ’90s including the two Fong Sai Yuk <方世玉> movies and The Bodyguard from Beijing <中南海保鑣>. Another notable collaboration is My Father is a Hero <給爸爸的信>, in which Jet Li plays a mainland Chinese police officer Gung Wai, who goes undercover in Hong Kong as one of the notorious gang of thieves led by Po Kwong (Yu Rong-Guang). The highlight of this movie is Li’s winning chemistry with child actor Xie Miao, who delivers a scene-stealing turn as Gung Wai’s physically agile young son. The father-and-son rapport is particularly well-executed here, while Corey Yuen offers some of the most impressively-staged fight scenes ever seen in the ’90s. It’s just a pity that Yu Rong-Guang’s laughably over-the-top performance somehow hampered this otherwise engaging and surprisingly heartfelt action movie.

6) Parents’ Hearts  <父母心> (1955)

Ma Sze-Tsang (the one with the hat) in “Parents’ Hearts” (1955).

This 1955 black-and-white classic melodrama tells a simple, though dated but genuinely affecting story about a Cantonese opera performer-father (Ma Sze-Tsang), who lost his job due to the bad economy. Despite his financial struggle, he has to care for his sick wife (Wong Man-Lei) as well as sending his two children (Lam Ka-Sing and Yuen Siu-Fai) to schools. Writer-director Chun Kim brings the best out in his principal actors, particularly Ma Sze-Tsang’s (who is actually a real-life Cantonese opera star himself) a heartfelt performance as a struggling father who tries to make ends meet. The movie also successfully captured the underlying themes of universal family values and harsh realities of social conditions of fading Cantonese opera during the bleak 1950s era.

5) Paradox <殺破狼・貪狼> (2017)

Louis Koo takes down an opponent in “Paradox” (2017).

This is the movie that finally earned Louis Koo his first Best Actor award at the 37th Hong Kong Film Award following his previous two tries (2008’s Run Papa Run <一個好爸爸> and 2013’s The White Storm <掃毒>). Frankly, it’s easy to see why. Koo’s performance as a determined father who’s willing to go all the way to locate his kidnapped daughter in Pattaya (Hanna Chan), is emotionally riveting. Thanks to Sammo Hung’s award-winning gritty action choreography, he proved himself to be convincing enough as a fighter after months of rigorous training.

4) He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father <新難兄難弟> (1993)

Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Carina Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father” (1993).

Tony Leung Ka-Fai’s famous “人人為我,我為人人” quote (literally translated as “one for all and all for one”, which itself a slogan once populated by Union Film) isn’t the only main highlight in this popular comedy-drama by Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai. The story itself packs with an interesting hook: Arrogant son Chor Yuen (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) finds himself transported back in the 1950s and meets his father (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) during his younger days. Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai blend the movie’s time-travel concept effectively with a mix of affecting family drama and genial comedy. This is of course made possible, thanks to both Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ka-Fai’s charming performances. In fact, these two Tony Leungs share a great yet convincing chemistry as father and son.

3) Father and Son <父子情> (1981)

Shi Lei and Lee Yue-Tin in Allen Fong’s “Father and Son” (1981).

This semi-autobiographical family melodrama, which tells a boy (Lee Yue-Tin) living with his traditionalist father (Shi Lei), happens to be the first local movie to win the Best Film at the 1st Hong Kong Film Awards in 1982. It is also a portrait that draws from Allen Fong’s own real-life experience, using elements of Italian neorealism to convey a well-meaning drama about a conservative working-class Chinese family separated between tradition and modernity. Though the story feels dated by today’s standard, Father and Son <父子情> remains one of the vital filmmaking pieces in Hong Kong Cinema.

2) After This Our Exile <父子> (2006)

Aaron Kwok, Charlie Young and Gouw Ian Iskandar in Patrick Tam’s “After This Our Exile” (2006).

Patrick Tam’s long-awaited comeback to the director’s chair after a 17-year hiatus since My Heart Is That Eternal Rose <殺手蝴蝶夢> (1989) was a big winner at the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards. Not only the movie finally earned him the coveted Best Director award, it also won Best Film as well as Best Screenplay while Gouw Ian Iskandar secured the win for Best Supporting Actor and Best New Performer.

The story itself is actually simple but painstakingly told with the help of great performances all around. This includes Aaron Kwok, who gives an engaging yet believable performance as the no-good, abusive father Shing. Gone are the pretty-boy caricature commonly associated with Aaron Kwok back then, where he finally matured as a distinguished actor in After This Our Exile <父子>. Gouw Ian Iskandar delivers a solid support as Chow Lok-Yun, an innocent boy who forced to put up with his abusive father. Having seen both 120-minute theatrical version and 160-minute original director’s cut, I personally found the latter is somewhat overlong.

1) All About Ah Long <阿郎的故事> (1989)

Chow Yun-Fat (in a hideous mop!) and Wong Kwan-Yuen in “All About Ah Long” (1989).

And the number-one spot goes to… this 1989 tearjerker classic, which is easily the best Hong Kong movie about fatherhood. It tells the story of Ah Long (Chow Yun-Fat), a former motorcycle rascal-turned-lowly construction worker who has a great relationship with his young son, Porky (Wong Kwan-Yuen). That is until the arrival of Sylvia (Sylvia Chang), who happens to be Porky’s biological mother and Ah Long’s ex-girlfriend ten years ago, complicates the matters.

Long before Johnnie To carved a niche and became one of Hong Kong’s most distinguished auteurs making movies for his Milkyway Image production company, he has already proved his worth in All About Ah Long <阿郎的故事>. His direction is undeniably top-notch, as he successfully balanced the movie’s emotionally heartfelt and lighthearted moments without going overboard.

He is also ably supported by Chow Yun-Fat, who enjoyed a then-hot streak of acclaimed acting successes during the mid-80s. If you could get over his hideous mop, his everyman performance is involving enough to earn him a well-deserved Best Actor win at the 9th Hong Kong Film Awards. (His previous two Best Actor awards were A Better Tomorrow <英雄本色> in 1986 and City on Fire <龍虎風雲> in 1987).

He delivers an engaging chemistry alongside Sylvia Chang, who in turn, gives a moving performance as the financially successful but estranged Sylvia. Wong Kwan-Yuen proves to be a child prodigy in this movie. His enduring turn as Porky is believable enough to make you think he and Chow Yun-Fat really embodied their characters like real-life father and son. Finally, who could forget the legendary ill-fated motorcycle racing towards the finale as well as Samuel Hui’s touching ballad, Ah Long’s Love Song <阿郎戀曲>?

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