Director: Sunny Chan
Cast: Dayo Wong, Stephy Tang, Louis Cheung Kai Chung, Ivana Wong, Lin Min Chen, Chan Charm Man Peter, Fish Liew
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village
Opening Day: 8 September 2022
Synopsis: It is often said that food and meals bring families together, but in TABLE FOR SIX it’s clear that not all family gatherings are a cause for celebration. In this melodramatic comedy, three brothers reside in a home that they inherited from their late parents. The eldest brother Steve (Dayo Wong), theoretically is the man of the house, but he constantly is getting dissed by his two younger brothers Bernard (Louis Cheung Kai Chung) and Lung (Chan Charm Man Peter) for the decisions he makes, the inedible meals that he cooks, and his complicated romantic encounters. To prepare for a family reunion dinner, Steve seeks the help of Lung’s girlfriend and foodie Josephine (Ivana Wong) and in doing so, wins back their hearts for a while, until his old flame and Bernard’s new girlfriend Monica (Stephy Tang) shows up. That’s a recipe for a disaster waiting to explode! The unexpected visit of Steve’s part-time girlfriend Meow (Lin Min-Chen) not only fails to turn down the heat and cool the awkward situation, but stirs up the sibling conflict even further.
Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘Table for Six’ and ‘Chilli Laugh Story’ would have gone head to head at the box office during the lucrative Chinese New Year period. That both films decided in the end to find separate release windows is a blessing in disguise, for both are worthy and deserving of audience attention. Whereas ‘Chilli’ saw the filmmaking debut of Coba Cheng under the tutelage of producer Sandra Ng, ‘Table’ marks the sophomore film by veteran screenwriter Sunny Chan under producer Bill Kong, and it is to the credit of both producers that each of these films are warm, wise and funny in their own ways.
Unfolding largely within the confines of their father’s former barbeque pork kitchen which three brothers have since converted into a spacious apartment, ‘Table’ weaves a coming-of-age story for the siblings Steve (Dayo Wong), Bernard (Louis Cheung) and Lung (Peter Chan). The eldest Steve is a professional photographer, who has converted part of the space in the apartment into his own studio; more importantly though, he has taken it upon himself to head the household following the death of their parents. Lung has quit his day job in the hopes of making it big as a professional e-sports player, much to the chagrin of his longtime girlfriend Josephine (Ivana Wong). Among the three, Bernard seems to be the most well-adjusted, though it is also him who throws all their lives into disarray.
The first of several reunion dinners that are the equivalent of the movie’s set-pieces sees Bernard bringing home his new girlfriend Monica (Stephy Tang), who was Steve’s ex-girlfriend until their break-up three years ago that he still hasn’t gotten over. Despite his own feelings, Steve generously welcomes Monica to join the family, inviting her to move in with them than remain in her subdivided flat he is all too familiar with. Steve further over-compensates by asking popular internet model Meow (Lin Min Chen) to move in as well to show how he has gotten over Monica, the latter an online celebrity who happens to be his biggest fan. Together with Josephine, whom Steve and Bernard had earlier invited to move in to be their resident chef, it is as crowded and as complicated as it gets.
Eschewing the ‘mo lei tau’ style of comedy of the typical CNY comedy, Chan adopts a dialogue-heavy, character-driven approach to his storytelling. A subsequent dinner conversation lays bare how Bernard had been interested in Monica even when she was Steve’s girlfriend three years ago, and had deliberately engineered their meet-cute six months ago over a project which Monica’s advertising company had tendered for. A heart-to-heart talk between Steve and Meow reveals how the latter is a lot more astute and perceptive than her cutesy image suggests, and what Steve has been suppressing all these years in order not to be a cause of worry to his brothers. And just when you think the only thing that could go right would save the family from being torn apart, Lung and Josephine’s relationship unravels in unexpected ways.
That none of the characters ends up being superfluous is credit to Chan’s scripting, which takes time to sculpt each character’s anxieties, insecurities and motivations. It is no surprise the family will come apart before coming back together again, but the process of doing so feels authentic, heartfelt and utterly relatable. It is also to Chan’s credit that the film never loses its cinematic quality despite being largely a chamber piece, with Meteor Cheung’s dexterous camera work ensuring that the movie feels intimate yet expansive at the same time. And then there is the ensemble cast, whose chemistry enlivens the material and makes it a lot more than the sum of its parts; in particular, (Dayo) Wong and Tang shine as ex-lovers who have to decide how to move forward not just for their sakes but also for the sake of those they care about.
We’d even go so far as to say that ‘Table’ is one of the best family dramas we’ve seen in a while, and with ‘Chilli’, even more reason to have faith once again in Hong Kong cinema. Kudos to Chan for not falling back on genre tropes for a Chinese New Year movie, choosing instead to pen quite possibly one of his best films to deliver an amusing, affecting and absorbing portrait of what it means to stay together as family. So even though it is now repackaged as a Mid-Autumn Festival release, ‘Table’ loses none of its joys or poignancy, and amidst a resurgence of Hong Kong cinema, may very well be the best of a very good lot.
(Lively, funny and heartfelt, 'Table for Six' assembles an excellent ensemble cast for a dialogue-heavy, character-driven family drama that is one of the best Hong Kong films of the year)
Review by Gabriel Chong