After This Our Exile (2006) Poster

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8/10
When Vengeance Binds a Father and a Son
samuelding859 December 2006
The above title explains it all: when vengeance binds a father and a son. That was a Chinese idiom to describe the the fate that binds a father and son together. And this best describes the movie, After This Our Exile.

After migrated to Malaysia, Hong Kong director/scriptwriter Patrick Tam decided to tell a tale of gambling-addicted father (Aaron Kwok, which earns him a Golden Horse Award from Taiwan for Best Actor) and a son (the 9 year old newcomer Gouw Ian Iskandar) who was torn between his father and his mother (Charlie Yeung).

Set in Ipoh, Perak, the story begins with the boy sensing something is amiss when his mother was exceptionally nice to him in a morning before school. He found out that she was preparing to leave the home. He informs his father, and the couple had a quarrel in their neighborhood. She fails to run away.

When the mother told the father that she is leaving him due to his bad temper and gambling addiction, he decided to change. He brought the whole family for a cruise, and yet he goes gambling in the cruise. She left the family this time round, leaving the son and the father to face the problem.

Facing with harassment from the loan sharks and tonnes of unpaid bills, the father seek another alternative to get the money by go gambling in Genting Highlands. (Note: Genting Highlands is a tour/leisure resort in Pahang, Malaysia, where it consist of theme parks, shopping malls and casinos. Popular among Malaysians and Singaporeans.) He lost the money, leaving them with larger debts. To get the money, the father gets the son to steal valuables from their neighbors.

After This Our Exile is a simple yet sad tale about the struggles between a father and the son. The father was struggling from the loss of his wife, constant debts and his gambling addiction. The son was struggling with the life without his mother, which ends up being ripped off from the privilege of continuing his elementary education. This, somehow, truly reflects on what is happening in our society today.

Kwok takes a new exploration on the role of the father, who was short tempered, selfish, and more often, cried over spilled milk. Compared to his previous roles in other features, Kwok has given his fans and audience a new look on his skills for the past decade. Yeung's role as the mother can be added more, for there are rooms in theatrical version, which can explores more on the pains she has been through.

The 9 year old Iskandar was something new for the film. Without any acting backgrounds, he amazes the audience with his fine and innocent acting skills.

While the director's cut gives the audience a fuller view on the story, the theatrical version seems disappointing, for it left the audience with too much space to guess. This has somehow unable to brought up the 'vengence' that binds the father and son together, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.

After This Our Exile sounds common to some, but it left the audience to re-examine the strained relationship between a father and the son.
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7/10
Exile in Paradise? Not Quite, But Close
Adorable4 December 2006
In a surprising twist of linguistics, the English name for Patrick Tam's latest carries a much deeper sense of atmosphere and tragedy than the simple Chinese title, translated more or less as "father". Well, a formal expression of the concept "father", but quite obvious either way.

And if one thing it isn't, that's obvious, for Exile serves as an adept reminder that even the most straightforward of stories may require multiple runs to fully appreciate.

Tam did items like Love Massacre in the past, and hasn't been much of a prolific artist in almost twenty years. This new release, rumored and talked about for over two , gives the director a respectable shot at a comeback, even though it probably isn't what he was going for, nor is it, frankly, the most astounding, earth-shattering drama to ever grace the silver screen.

But it is a sensible, intriguing affair, with quite excellent cinematography, a goodie bag's worth of various ingredients and an at least seldom-visited location setting.

Exile further depicts lean pop star Aaron Kwok in a superb melodramatic turn which has one regularly thinking to themselves, "now that's acting". Just for that kind of pondering about him, Exile surely has merit.

It further puts forth Charlie Yeung (Seven Swords, New Police Story) as Kwok's troubled life partner, with the couple, A Sheng and Lin, entering the stage as two Cantonese speakers (presumably from HK although that much is never revealed) in Malaysia. Kwok's character works as a cook in a restaurant, while Yeung depicts a homemaker, taking care of son Boy (Gouw Ian Iskandar). Something's amiss from the get go as Lin tries to get away from an abusive, yet strangely loving, relationship with her significant other, all superimposed over landscapes Tam and crew make clear are quite homey and comfortable.

For a minute there Exile veers close to the wave of cinematic psychedelia that came out of East Asia (and mainland China in particular) over the late 90's and early 2000's, with a flickering mood of non-place and slow, thoughtful unfolding of events to challenge those who didn't get enough sleep the night before.

However, this makes room for a more realistic mindset quite early. Lin indeed makes her escape, leaving Sheng and Boy to fend for themselves as we slowly witness them deteriorate further toward destitution in a pretty but cruel realm where, despite being surrounded by others, they are inevitably alone. Kwok does his job with flying colors, convincing us throughout that he's this lonely, well-meaning character that's so tragic for simply being completely unfit for the world in which we live. No matter what the guy does he can't get a break, from his crumbling family to bad debts that won't go away.

Everyone else doesn't seriously measure up to Aaron, with Yeung doing her best but ultimately failing to impress. She's OK, yet we like her a lot better in urban, rather than urbane, roles. Some supporting love comes via Qin Hailu (Durian Durian and the masterful Chicken Poets) as Lin's KTV lounge friend and boss. What ruins her appearance in Exile is the horrible Cantonese dub they slapped over her Putonghua lines, hence a reduction to a stand-in sideshow.

Our beloved Kelly Lin has returned at long last from her own mini exile, looking so different and mature we barely recognized the graceful lady. Sadly none of the bubbly Martial Angels stuff from back in the day here. She plays a prostitute granting Sheng temporary relief and haunting memories at the same time. And although appropriately emotional and chilling while engaged with him, Kelly's persona also ends up in a dead end much like most everyone in the film, leaving Aaron to carry it all himself.

Even the kid, Boy (Iskandar) doesn't pack too much punch despite showing promise. We wish him every success in the future, but feel there was more that could have been done with his role. As it stands, you feel for him in the few occasions where he starts to (quite genuinely) cry, yet not a lot beyond.

Exile, overall, can be touching at times and certainly there's those that'll find it very moving. It doesn't overwhelm with sheer sentiment, though, leaving its assets clear: firstly, there's Aaron in a prize appearance. Then, the mesmerizing Malaysian landscapes. Finally, that English title just compels one to reflect on what it all means. Taken in that context, After This Our Exile thrusts itself forward, defying a seemingly almost banal story and non-descript characters. Additionally, Tam makes sure to incorporate saucy adult elements like love scenes (not overdone) and language. In fact, more F-bombs here than in any other HK film we can recall recently.

This humanity is definitely a driving force, but not enough for grand success. Ergo, after all this isn't our latest classic, but it sure should be on your winter viewing list.
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9/10
A Nutshell Review: After This Our Exile
DICK STEEL6 December 2006
This film needs no introduction. The latest work from director-writer Patrick Tam, After This Our Exile took home honours from the recent 2006 Golden Horse Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best PIcture, and after watching it today, it's no surprise why it did.

As mentioned in one of my recent reviews, the storyline of a movie is important, nevermind if the technicalities are great, because if the story doesn't engage, then it's a battle lost, in my opinion anyway. In After This Our Exile, the story is extremely simple, but it resonates deeply, and also because it deals with something very personal, very close, and perhaps, family ties always cut closer to home. After all, the Chinese title is Fu Zi, literally translated as Father-Son, which is quite unsophisticated if compared to the English title.

If you raised an eyebrow in Aaron Kwok's win for his acting in Divergence and thought he probably didn't deserve it, then his role as Sheng will win you over and justify his back to back win at the Golden Horse Awards. I'm sold. Gone are those teeny-bopper bad hair days and repetitive dance moves. Now, with maturity, he adds a certain gravitas to his roles, and kudos too to his willingness to take on unsavoury characters, instead of playing hero all the time. His dad is the perennial terror, one who blows hot and cold in a whim, full of false bravado, and never hesitant to raise a hand against spouse and kid. Uneducated, loud, uncouth, and worse, a habitual gambler, life for his family is difficult, both in material and emotional wealth. Yes, Kwok pulled off this character with aplomb, with subtle nuances, gestures, mannerisms and attitude all spot on, bringing to life a character you'll so love to hate, yet sympathize with at the same time.

And since the "Fu" played opposite the "Zi", and having both of actors pull off their father son relationship so convincingly, with great on screen chemistry, it's no wonder too that 9 year old Gouw Ian Iskandar took home the Best Supporting Actor award as the Son. His childlike innocence will probably bowl you over with earnestness, as he holds his own opposite Kwok and screen mother played by Charlie Young. He doesn't come off as irritating, and is so much likable and vulnerable in character that you just want to give him a hug. Intuitive and smart, you'd come to love and pity his character very early in the story.

Charlie Young only had half as much to do as the other two leads, and without makeup, she manages to bring out that average every day weary look of a tired mother and wife who had enough. And herein, the conflict begins, from the beginning of the film. Other supporting cast include Valen Hsu and Kelly Lin, are kept to a minimum, thereby keeping the focus squarely on the principal cast.

As I mentioned earlier, After This Our Exile tells a simple tale with deep themes, and is able to draw out emotions from within you as it resonates. In what could be problems that households face when there's a gambler in the home, the movie sets to show these issues from the onset, with the breaking down of family ties and values, and the debt causing financial strain on the family. I guess opposition to our Integrated Resorts would see their arguments fleshed out here.

In what could be an oversimplification of the issue, gamblers = debts = strain in family relations, it is this domestic disturbance that ring out vividly. Broadly it can be categorized into two acts (no, I won't say anything more), but each act focuses on different aspects on the family relationship and dynamics. Toward the end, everything comes full circle, with the son experiencing exactly what the mom has gone through, and it makes the movie extremely poignant. It emphasizes the widely held notion that in domestic squabbles, it's always the children who suffer the fate of the consequences.

Brilliant cinematography and awesome musical pieces complemented the movie well, with plenty of nice piano pieces punctuating emotional moments. The pacing, though slow, is well measured, and Ipoh never looked more beautiful, becoming a character in itself rather than just another locale to shoot the film in. Attention to details are not spared, and the production brings about Malaysian flavour to it too. Some though I predict, may not enjoy the open end that director Patrick Tam chose to finish it with, but it will allow for post viewing discussion, loads of it.

My only gripe, as I just found out, is that the theatrical version now showing in theatres, is the watered down one. The director's cut, clocking in at almost 2.5 hours, get whittled down to 2 hours here, leaving certain scenes on the cutting room floor which were glimpsed at through a series of very quick flashback montage. I thought the film could have gone on and showed us more footage, especially on the father-son bonding (hinted from production stills), which I thought would have added a better level of the understanding about the dynamics of the Fu-Zi relationship.

The second movie this year which used the You Are My Sunshine song (the other is the Korean movie), After This Our Exile makes its way easily into my shortlist of favourite movies of 2006.

You are my sunshine, making me happy when skies are grey. You never know how much I love you.
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8/10
Heart breaking tale of a father, a son and a two broken hearts
dbborroughs12 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the complete restored directors cut which runs two hours and forty minutes some forty minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I had picked the film up because the description on the DVD case promised one thing, however how it delivered that story was not what I expected. (I also picked it up because I love the English title)

As the film opens boy is being sent off to school by his mother. She is being especially nice to him and he suspects something is wrong. sneaking off the bus he returns home to find his mother packing up her things preparing to leave him and his father. He runs off to tell his dad, who returns home in time to stop her from leaving. He manages to talk her into staying, but it isn't for long as his mother eventually leaves leaving him and his father alone to take on the world, and the money men he owes money to from his out of control gambling.

Heartbreaking tale of two souls adrift in life's storms is compelling viewing. The performances by everyone involved especially Aaron Kwok as the father are very real and emotional. Its painful at times looking into the lives of these people. They are not good or bad, they are just people which is readily apparent when Kwok, his wife having just left him, breaks down on the couch grasping desperately at his son pleading with him not to leave him too.its a heavy moment. Actually the movie is full of heavy moments, many of them that rung true with me having lived through similar ones with parents and friends.

The film is technically a marvel with a look that is stunning, as is the use of the widescreen. Even better is the use of music both in its original score and its use of songs from elsewhere. Patrick Tam who directed is also listed as music designer, a title I've never heard of before but which is aptly put in the present case. If the film has a flaw its that in this cut its a bit too long. As I said earlier this is forty minutes longer than the theatrical version which must move at a better clip. However I would be remiss in not saying I really couldn't tell you what I would cut to speed the film up, or if I did have an idea I certainly wouldn't know where to cut forty minutes.

On a more personal note I was slightly disappointed in the very end of the movie.There is something about it that left me unsatisfied. I suspect because it doesn't provide an end rather a stop. its a minor thing that I can't explain, but its what prevented me from completely falling head over heels with the film, something I felt sure I was going to do. Don't get me wrong this is a really good movie, its just the last second of film just made me go "wha?". Frankly I'm going to have to watch the final portion of the film to see if it makes a difference on a second viewing.
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6/10
Soap Opera from Malaysia
edchin200629 October 2007
Except for the intrusive music which felt like a none too subtle attempt to evoke the sought-after emotion, this was a passable tear-jerker with a bit of sex and comedy. The music was particularly jarring because the solo piano was so much more foreground rather than background, and the distinctly European sound clashed with the tropical Southeast Asian visuals on the screen. To my Western tuned ear, the lack of strings kept the tears, which were yearning to be released, from emerging.

The "feel" of the picture was very Malaysian even though the story revolved around mostly ethnic Chinese characters. The interior and exterior shots as well as the scenes showing dining/food added to the "flavor" of the film. (Please, forgive the pun.)

Worth seeing? Maybe for a rainy afternoon or a soap opera addict. It is a tad too long and could easily be pared another 30min. I can hardly imagine watching the original version - still, I know people watching a continuing soap opera after 20yrs.
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9/10
A compelling and moving film
howard.schumann15 June 2008
As eagerly awaited as a new Terence Malick film, After This Our Exile, the latest work by idiosyncratic Hong Kong director Patrick Tam more than lives up to expectations. Known as a teacher of Wong-Kar-wai, Tam's first feature in seventeen years is a compelling and moving film about the complex interaction between an irresponsible father and his loyal and devoted son who would do anything for him, even steal. Winner of major Hong Kong awards as well as Taiwan's Golden Horse Award for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor, the film carries on the gritty tradition of the Hong Kong New Wave of the 70s and 80s while defying patriarchal genre conventions and probing greater emotional depths than much of the mainstream cinema of the time.

Set in Malaysia but spoken in Cantonese, the film uses flashbacks, crosscutting, and ellipsis to tell a riveting and often-melodramatic story. After Lee Yuk-lin (Charlie Yeung) walks out on her abusive husband Chow Cheung-sheng, (Aaron Kwok), a compulsive gambler, their nine-year old son Boy (Gouw Ian Iskandar) runs to his father's place of work to tell him of her escape. The overwrought Sheng drags Lin home and physically and verbally abuses her, but eventually shows his loving, almost childlike side and they end up having sex.

After taking Boy on a cruise, Sheng returns to discover than Lin has left again, this time with another man, and father and son are left to struggle alone. Sheng has lost his job, owes gambling debts, and Boy is without the money to pay the bus driver to go to school. Forced to move to a seedy small town hotel, Sheng is driven to pimping a girl (Kelly Lin) to make money but their life soon begin to spiral further downward. Sheng teaches Boy to sneak into people's home to steal jewelry, but the child is caught and sent to a detention center in a sequence that leads to a startling and unexpected conclusion.

While After This Our Exile sounds depressing and there are some truly heartbreaking moments, the film has touches of kindness and humanity that are enhanced by the caliber of the acting and the rich cinematography of Ping Bin-lee. Iskandar, also known as Ng King-to, is sympathetic and moving as the appealing but not cloying child who loves his dad but is slow to realize how he is guiding him into self-destructive behavior. Pop singer Aaron Kwok gives a masterfully nuanced performance as the deadbeat husband who manages to evoke sympathy as a suffering human being in spite of his failings. We know that Sheng is doing what he does because he loves his son, never grasping the extent to which he has endangered the boy until a furious coda suggests that pain heals very slowly and sometimes not at all.
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2/10
A Huge Disappointment
kevbee3 June 2007
First things first. This is not so much a dramatic heart-wrenching film, more a self-indulgent melodrama. I have just had the misfortune to sit through the director's DVD cut of this movie. 159 minutes of self indulgent twaddle. One thing's for sure - the distributors sure got it right when they axed nearly 30 minutes from the running time for the cinema release.

Why is this so bad? 2 major factors - the writing and directing. Please put your hand up Patrick Tam. If you're going to make a film that centers on a father/son relationship, please make the father 3-dimentional and believable. Here we had a total loser from the first minute; one who railed at his own (self-inflicted) misfortune and had an on/off loving relationship with his 8 year old son.

Can I quickly say that this little boy was by far the best thing in the film and acted everyone else off the screen and is the ONLY reason to watch this film.

The great mystery is why this nonsense garnered so many awards? Somebody called Roger Garcia is quoted on the back of my DVD copy as saying that "After This Our Exile is the first masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema of the 21st century ..." I think he's wrong. And if he's right - then God help HK cinema.
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7/10
Boy's Life
crossbow010613 June 2010
This story mostly revolves around a boy called, actually "boy" throughout the film. His parents are not happy, with his mom Lin trying to leave the son and his father (the boy's parents are not legally married) in the beginning of the film. Once she does, it is up to his father Sheng (well played by Aaron Kwok) to take care of the boy. He is a hopeless gambler, always in debt and they leave their town in China for a better chance at sustaining themselves. The film is straightforward in its telling, moving at a semi-slow pace. The film is also atmospheric at times, with the cinematography at times superb. The story in and of itself is not immediate, variations of it have been done before, but its well filmed. The reason for the grade not being higher is its lack of synergy with the characters. You may or may not care for them as the film progresses, but you don't relate to them. I suppose this is a slice of life in which the point may be that it's hard to rise above your station in life without making an honest attempt at change. That being said, this film reminds me somewhat of Wong Kar-Wai's films, it shares in those films a simple approach to a deceptively simple story. Its a good film, but not a masterpiece. It is, however, worth watching.
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9/10
Great ending makes this film great
karlweb20025 January 2009
This movie is not a social criticism, not a social realism, not a naturalism, not about family value or any moral lessons concerning raising a child or being a parent. The movie says one thing: even the biological father-son relationship is contingent and fragile. The love and bond between the father and the son cannot hold the relationship when it is impossible or too painful for them to continue the relationship. The father, mother and the son love each other, but apparently it is the best for them to go separate ways. In the end they all have their own happy life (maybe with some regrets)and their own (new) families. Father-son relation is just like relation between two lovers. If it cannot work out, it would be better just to break up and start anew. That is a very potent (unnerving for some) message of this movie. It is about modern relationship. The whole movie comes down to the surprised ending, which transforms your perspective and gives this movie a different light.
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6/10
Not so good
thomasaaa12311 July 2007
Like some others who have reviewed the movie, I am puzzled as to why this movie managed to win the awards it did -- except for the best supporting actor award going to the kid playing the "Boy" in the movie. He totally carried the movie -- he's really a major reason why I could sit through the 160 mins of the director's cut version of the movie.

Don't get me wrong. The movie isn't bad, but just that it's really not that good. A few pleasant surprises, besides the fabulous performance by the kid. Despite that his character is essentially a clichéd stereotype, Kwok turned out to be a much better actor than he is a singer. Also, several scenes are funny and the director's humor showed.

But the movie severely suffers from empty script and indulgent direction. The movie's character and plot developments are too light to substantiate the 3-hour duration (or, I believe, even the 2.5-hour duration of the theatre's cut). And the movie drags on and on. Sometimes it's as if the director isn't confident that the messages he intends for the audience would get through, and so he keeps re-sending them, and sometimes in an overly melodramatic way.

Another thing worth mentioning is the director (Tam) seems heavily influenced by Kar-Wai Wong. It's especially evident in the setup where the father gets into an affair with his neighbor in the hotel (reminiscent of "In the Mood for Love" and "2046"). But the movie would have benefited much if Tam's direction were crisper, subtler and more assured.
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Nicely done !
ichocolat27 July 2007
After This Our Exile is the English translation to this wonderful movie entitled 'Fu zi' (which means father in Chinese). It is directed by writer-director Patrick Tam.

This movie are starred by actor Aaron Kwok (father), actress Charlie Yeung (mother), and the 9-year old boy, newcomer Gouw Ian Iskandar.

In my opinion, this movie's storyline is very simple, but it touches your heart deeply as it deals with something very close to everybody.

Most Malaysians were surprised to see that the movie is set in Malaysia (in the city of Perak, Ipoh to be exact), vividly portraying the scenery & the culture of the warm Malaysia. The slang is quite entertaining to hear too as Malaysians are well-known to speak Bahasa Rojak (mixed up language which contains different slangs & language in dialogues i.e mixture of English + Hokkien + Mandarin. It is commonly used, but not for formal functions). Kudos to the director for the extra detail taken in this respect! The story is about a family, with Dad being a gambler, harassed by Ah Long (illegal money-lender who gives out loan & ask for a much higher amount than the debt given) & a strained relationship with his wife & son. Mom, on the other hand, was not happy anymore to be with Dad, as Dad constantly beat up Mom, & Mom wasn't able to live with the no-gooder husband. Then there's the Kid, the central of the entire movie.

I enjoyed watching the entire 1 hour 55 minute of this movie as it touches my heart deeply. Patrick Tam is a genius as he directs the movie in a more realistic way, instead of portraying it like the Hollywood, which is too unrealistic at times. The movie starts with "You are my sunshine, making me happy when skies are grey..." It's very touching. No, seriously. You are heartless if you don't at least feel sympathy to any of these characters.

I believe many Malaysians would want to see more of this movie, especially TMalaya users. :-)
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2/10
Don't over-analyze this poorly directed movie
imutsusemi2 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Mother separates from father. Father loses job. Son couldn't afford school. Father tells son to steal. He does. Son gets caught. He cries. Son has a mad with father. Father remarries. Son grow up like everyone else.

Nothing out of the ordinary. No touching moments except when the actors are trying really hard to genuinely show some emotion, signaling to the audience that they should feel the same. Film direction is all over the place, literally (see the final scene when, Boy, all grown up, spots his dad across the river). It's like the Vaseline covered hands of a cameraman repeatedly drops the camera and successfully snatching it mid air, repeat that 10 times.

Mediocre acting is apparent except when Aaron Kwok and Charlie Yeung overtly tries to sneak in some Indonesian/Malaysian lingo with conversational Cantonese. Even the swearing was unbelievably abysmal. How can you screw up saying "Pook Guy" in Cantonese?

The title of this movie is "Father & Son" in Chinese. It somehow translates to "After This Our Exile" when it translates to English. Let's take a moment to make sense of that.

Don't waste your valuable time on this movie and reading extremely inaccurate reviews about this movie. Life is short. The only way to make your life long is to live it with regret forever by watching this movie.

The only reason I gave this 1 instead of 2 is that the actor who played Boy did an OK job. Good job mate.
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5/10
Malaysian Small-Town Drama made by Hong Kong
dont_b_so_BBC12 July 2007
I, and probably most Malaysians (and possibly South-East Asians), was pleasantly surprised to find that this was in fact a "Malaysian" movie made by a mainly HK cast and crew. The award for best screenplay was well-deserved for its authentically-researched "Malaysian" script and setting. And the fact it won awards and critical acclaim in HK movie industry showed that HK did not hold the "purist" attitudes that mainland China and other regional movie industries have.

Yes, I'm talking about the mainly Cantonese dialogue. Many Malaysian ethnic-Chinese are native Cantonese speakers, but the way they incorporated various Malay and other words/ accents into their speech is just as "notorious" as the way HK Chinese incorporated various English and other words/ accents into their speech. And just like mainstream Chinese cinema audience did a double-take when they heard a mish-mash of Mandarin accents in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", I was frequently jolted back into Malaysia by the mish-mash of Cantonese accents.

But apart from the dialogue, it also gets alternative/ art cinema credit for its naturalistic style of filming-- almost the opposite of Hollywood's so-called "realism" with "balanced/ well-made" characters/ plots/ themes/ etc. Because watching a family/relationship disintegrate is very much like watching a train-wreck in super-slow motion, with most of its sleeping passengers slowly waking up. If you have been cursing the father throughout the whole movie, the final scene with the son is especially heart-breaking.
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