DRIFTING (濁水漂流) (DISNEY+) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: Under the flyovers of Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong live a group of down-and-outs. Despised by local residents, they are regularly forced to relocate due to the city's redevelopment projects. One winter night, a street sweep occurs. Sick of being evicted, Fai and his companion build fences around their living space while a young social worker takes to court demanding compensation for their losses.
Isn’t life miserable enough? laments Ho Kei-fai, the character played by Francis Ng.
Fai is a drug addict who have just released from prison. Returning to join his fellow homeless friends such as Master (Tse Kwan-ho) and Dai Shing (Chu Pak-ho) in Sham Shui Po, Fai find themselves being evicted by police and their possessions being cleared away by road sweepers one night. Though they manage to find an alternative site to setup their makeshift homes again, social worker Ms Ho (Cecilia Choi) suggest they file a lawsuit against the government demanding for both compensation and an official apology.
Given the political unrest of Hong Kong pre-covid, there has been a great surge in social-political theme movies emerging from young HK filmmakers in recent years. From Ten Years, an indie film illustrating the bleak prospects of the ex-British colony to Mad World which deals with mental illness to I’m Livin’ it, a similar theme drama which also talks about the homeless issue in Hong Kong.
Frankly, there’s a lot to digest in a movie liked Drifting. Obviously, it’s not a simple matter of whether this lot of people choses to be homeless or vice versa. Everyone it seems has a story to tell. Master is a Vietnamese refugee who lost touch with his family members. Dai Shing is a self-proclaimed licensed electrician and Taoist priest. Fai seems to have some issues with his son before he died. Interestingly, despite their different backgrounds, all of them have to resort to drugs to conceal their life issues which is ironic.
Then there is Muk (Will Or), a young homeless man who has speech difficulties who befriended Fai with the latter slowly turning into his father figure. As mentioned prior, there’s a lot going on in the near two hours drama though it’s probably unfair to blame it on the screenplay for the lack of a satisfying closure for some of the characters.
Rather than taking a stand in the whole affair, director and screenwriter Jun Li approaches the subject matter with much care and research, offering the widening of wealth gap, a fast developing economy and lack of assistance from the government as perhaps reasons that attribute to the increase number of outcasts. Still, Li has a story to tell and that of course is the lawsuit in which Fai refuses to sign off in the end unless the government agrees to an official apology instead of a mere HK$2000 (roughly worked out to SGD$400) compensation. The poor man has dignity and principle although he is a repeated drug offender.
Ng perfectly nailed the part of an often stoned, dazed Ho Kei-fai, a huge pity considering he lost the Best Actor award in the 40th Hong Kong Film Awards. 80’s starlet Loletta Lee makes a lasting impression as Chan Mui, a lady with a shady past but has now gotten a proper job and a government issued unit. Drifting in short is not an easy watch. It requires a little patience for this drama that touches on the vast difference between the poor, the rich and the invisible. Be it an alcoholic or an addict, fast rising skyscrapers are surely not the reason to resolve it. Life certainly has its fair share of miserable moments maybe a bit of help is all we need in the end.
Review by Linus Tee