40 Years Later: Father And Son 父子情 (1981)

40 Years Later: Father And Son 父子情 (1981)

With Father’s Day 2021 arriving this Sunday, let’s take a look back at Allen Fong (Yuk-Ping)’s acclaimed feature-length directorial debut Father And Son <父子情>, easily one of the best Hong Kong movies ever made about fatherhood.

The movie, of course, happened to make history as the first local movie to win both Best Film and Best Director at the 1st Hong Kong Film Award.

Originally released on April 16, 1981, the movie has already marked its 40th anniversary a few months ago. The story — credited to Chan Chiu, Lillian Lee Pik-Wah and Alfred Cheung (Kin-Ting) — is a classic, though dated Hong Kong family melodrama. The latter marks the then-young multi-hyphenate’s earlier stint as a screenwriter (he won Best Screenplay for Ann Hui’s The Story Of Woo Viet <胡越的故事>). His later credits include several notable acting, writing and directing such as Her Fatal Ways <表姐,你好野!> franchise.

Moving at an unhurried but somewhat absorbing pace, Father And Son <父子情> unfolds almost entirely in a flashback (save for the present-day opening scene). Here, the movie focuses mainly on Law Ka-Hing’s (played by Lee Yue-Tin and Cheng Yue-Oh as the respective child and youth versions in different stages) relationship with his traditionalist working-class father (Shi Lei’s Law San-Muk). He loves to spend his time hanging around with a fellow classmate, Ng Shiu-Cung (Cheung Kwok-Ming) after school.

Lee Yue-Tin and Cheung Kwok-Ming in "Father And Son" (1981)
Lee Yue-Tin and Cheung Kwok-Ming in “Father And Son” (1981)

From there, he develops a passion for cinema and hoping that one day he can work at a movie theatre when he grows up. This is particularly evident after his teacher (played by then-young Rainbow Ching Ho-Wai, where she subsequently appeared in numerous TVB dramas such as 1983’s The Legend Of The Condor Heroes <射鵰英雄傳>, 1999’s At The Threshold Of An Era <創世紀> and last year’s Life After Death <那些我愛過的人>, just to name a few) asked the class about each of their ambitions. His father, however, doesn’t appear to share the same sentiment with his son’s ambition. And given his more conservative mindset, he prefers his son to pursue formal education. This, in turn, creates an emotional detachment between Law Ka-Hing and his father over the course of the movie.

More than just a family melodrama, Father And Son <父子情> also served as a semi-autobiographical portrait that mirrors Allen Fong’s own real-life experience. His direction leans towards a more naturalistic approach, combining sympathetic drama with a subtle touch of realism. Or more specifically, Fong draws heavily from the Italian neorealism style famously seen during the 1940s and 50s eras such as Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954). In other words, you won’t find the kind of mainstream or even TVB-style family melodrama typically dominated in most Hong Kong movies.

The movie is also blessed with perfectly understated performances from the cast all around. Veteran actor Shi Lei, whose acting career spanning over 30 years delivers perhaps his most accomplished performance as the traditionalist father. The child actors, notably Lee Yue-Tin and Cheung Kwok-Ming are equally praiseworthy, with the former can be seen in another 1981 acclaimed drama Cream Soda And Milk <忌廉溝鮮奶>.

Shi Lei and Liu Kai-Chi in "Father And Son" (1981)
Shi Lei and Liu Kai-Chi in “Father And Son” (1981)

Also, look out for then-young Liu Kai-Chi (who unfortunately passed away this year on March 28, 2021) in one of his earliest roles in a feature-length movie as an office employee working at the same company with Law San-Muk.

Prior to debuting his first feature movie, Allen Fong used to work at RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong), where he famously directed the popular Below The Lion Rock <獅子山下> series during the late 70s. Among the episodes include Wild Child <野孩子> (1977), Old Plough <老犁> and Nightwalker <夜遊人> (both released in 1978), where the former won the Gold Prize at the 5th Asia-Pacific Youth Film Festival. He also credited as one of the major figures responsible for the first Hong Kong New Wave cinema that began from 1979 to 1989 along with other then-emerging filmmakers such as Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Tsui Hark and Alex Cheung.

Following the critical success of Father And Son <父子情>, Allen Fong would go on to make more history at the Hong Kong Film Awards. He subsequently won the prestigious Best Director award two more times for Ah Ying <半邊人> (1983) and Just Like Weather <美國心> (1986). Sadly enough, Fong only made a total of five feature movies with his last two directorial efforts (to date) ended during the 90s including Dancing Bull <舞牛> (1990) and A Little Life-Opera <一生一台戲> (1998).

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