Adieu: a sentimental drama about how families cope with looming death – film review

Hong Kong filmmaker Kenneth Lau’s best movie, and possibly his last, Adieu is a well-meaning, well acted take on dealing with terminal cancer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 8:03pm

3/5 stars

The spectre of death hovers over the three interwoven stories in Adieu, an unabashedly sentimental, and apparently well-meaning, Hong Kong drama about coping with a terminal cancer patient in the family.

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One story follows the efforts of an old woman who is dying (Helena Law Lan) to reconnect with her estranged adult children; another charts the struggles of the parents (Louis Cheung Kai-chung and Michelle Wai Sze-nga) of a leukaemia-stricken daughter; the third shows the doomed romance between a young journalist (Hedwig Tam Sin-yin) and her boyfriend (Jason Chan Pak-yu).

The film doesn’t have the depth or intelligence to derive any greater meaning from its protagonists’ life-and-death situations, and the way it connects the three stories through the involvement of a social worker (Gladys Li Ching-kwan, Big Brother) smacks of lazy scriptwriting.

The first story gives Law, the grande dame of Hong Kong horror films for the past two decades, a rare opportunity to impress. The story of the distressed couple, played by Cheung and Wai, is the most intricate of the three, as the deterioration in their five-year-old child’s health tests their marriage and their faith.

Understated acting stops the film being mawkish, and this is easily the best directing effort to date by Kenneth Lau Hau-wai. With the director at the centre of a fraud investigation involving up to 50 investors, including backers of this film, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Adieu could be the final nail in the coffin of Lau’s stop-start career.

Adieu opens on September 6

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