Film review: Sisterhood – Macau-set melodrama a poignant tale of lesbian love, loss and longing

Tracy Choi serves up a touching tale of a woman returning to a Macau that she doesn’t recognise to try to piece together a past she can’t get back

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 1:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 3:48pm

3/5 stars

The past is a foreign country in Macau director Tracy Choi Ian-sin’s female-oriented melodrama, which juxtaposes the regrets over a lesbian romance that never was with the alienation a Macau native feels over the city’s development into a glamorous gambling capital since its 1999 handover. It’s no surprise that Sisterhood won the audience choice award at the inaugural Macau film festival in December.

Fifteen years after she moved to Taiwan to marry a hostel owner, Macau-raised orphan Sei (Gigi Leung Wing-kei) remains haunted by her abrupt breakup with best friend Ling around the turn of the millennium. When news of Ling’s death arrives, Sei, now a chronic alcoholic, finally decides to travel back to her hometown and piece together their intimate past together in the late 1990s.

The film comes to life during the bonding scenes between young actresses Fish Liew Ziyu ( Lazy Hazy Crazy ) and Jennifer Yu Heung-ying, respectively as Sei and Ling, who grew close as fellow workers in a seedy massage parlour and, at one point, even agreed to raise the latter’s illegitimate baby together. As Sei belatedly discovers, there was perhaps more than a hint of love in their friendship.

While it feels frustratingly truncated and understated at times, the story by long-time Johnnie To screenwriter Au Kin-yee manages to vividly evoke Sei’s longing for the irretrievable past. The cast of new and veteran actresses all give solid performances, although it’s the Malaysian-born Liew, a best supporting actress nominee at the Hong Kong Film Awards, who stands out as the emotionally confused protagonist.

Sisterhood opens on February 23

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