Most of us have grown accustomed to Anthony Wong (Chau-Sang)’s performance as a cop, gangster or any role that involves action and violence. But Still Human marks a refreshing change of pace for the veteran Hong Kong thespian that allows him to stretch his acting ability, reminding us why he is one of the most decorated Hong Kong actors over the last 30 years.
But before we get to his performance, here’s the brief synopsis about the movie: Anthony Wong plays Cheong-Wing, a paralysed middle-aged man who lives alone in a public housing unit. With extremely limited mobility, he has to depend on others, namely his best friend played by Sam Lee to help him with the household chores and other activities like cooking and putting him on the bed. Soon, he receives full-time assistance from his newly-hired Filipino maid named Evelyn Santos (Crisel Consunji).
At first, they have a hard time communicating with each other since Cheong-Wing only knows little English while Evelyn doesn’t speak or understand Cantonese at all. But it doesn’t take long before they start to progress from a strict employer-and-employee relationship to an unlikely friendship.
Back to Anthony Wong, this is easily his most accomplished performance to date since Ip Man: The Final Fight back in 2013, which is ironically the last time he received a Best Actor nomination in the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards. Wong’s perfectly restrained performance as Cheong-Wing is both sympathetic and at times, display a right sense of humour whenever he spews profanities — something that I did not expect prior to the screening of the movie. No doubt his performance earned a well-deserved nomination for Best Actor for this year’s 38th Hong Kong Film Awards and of all the fellow nominees including Francis Ng (Men On The Dragon), Chow Yun-Fat (Project Gutenberg), Aaron Kwok (Project Gutenberg) and Philip Keung (Tracey), I would say he has a higher chance to win the award.
Anthony Wong’s co-star, Crisel Consunji, is no slouch either. A relative newcomer in the movie industry, the 34-year-old Filipino actress delivers a solid performance as Evelyn Santos and even display wonderful chemistry with Anthony Wong, which also happens to be the major hook of the movie. In fact, they are the heart and soul that makes this small-scale drama such a poignant cinematic experience.
Equally worth praising in Still Human is Oliver Chan Siu-Kuen, who made her feature-length debut as both screenwriter and director of the movie. With the exceptions of Austin Chau’s maudlin score and an odd creative decision involving Cheong-Wing’s dream sequence that feels awkwardly misplaced, Chan proves to be an otherwise accomplished storyteller, which is actually saying a lot for a debutant like her. She doesn’t rely on big, emotionally over-the-top moments which typically plagued in most Hong Kong dramas to get her message across. Instead, her overall screenplay is appropriately episodic to mirror a slice-of-life drama that unfolds slowly and naturally, taking the time to tell the nearly 2-hour’s worth of a movie. Never once the movie feels pretentious or arty, while Chan’s thematic viewpoint which explored the sympathetic side of a Filipino maid who makes a living in Hong Kong is both interesting and particularly well-told.
Apart from Anthony Wong and Crisel Consunji’s top-notch performances, both Sam Lee and Cecilia Yip, who plays Cheong-Wing’s petulant younger sister Jing-Ying deliver strong supports in their respective roles. Nominated for 8 Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, Still Human certainly as qualifies one of the best Hong Kong movies ever made in 2018.