ZERO TO HERO (妈妈的神奇小子) (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: This film chronicles record-breaking Paralympian So Wa-wai’s relationship with his mother as they overcome hurdles in their lives. Based on a true story.
Zero To Hero is unabashedly a feel-good, inspirational sports drama about former Hong Kong Paralympic champion So Wa-wai. Remarkably, it’s not just a tale of So but also a heart-warming story about the love of a never-say-die mother.
So Wa-wai was diagnosed to be suffering from cerebral palsy as a baby. As a result, he lost part of his hearing and the ability to walk. But his mother (Sandra Ng) isn’t going to let fate have its way anytime soon as we learnt that in a near child-abuse scenario, Mrs So forces Wa-wai to stand up and walk. Years later, Mrs So noticed his son’s potential in running and shortly after, he is talent-spotted by a certain Coach Fong (Louis Cheung) to be part of the 4x100m relay team at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996. But later on, we realised the road to being a full-time athlete is never as easy as Wa-wai has to juggle working as a courier to help support his family and risk giving up on the sports he love.
Besides being based on a real-life story, Zero To Hero is also basically an underdog tale as well. Winning alone apparently is not enough for an athlete. In order to ensure that Wa-wai has a more secure future, at the insistence of Mrs So, Wa-wai reluctantly has to take on sponsorships and commercials which cuts into his training regime. In the movie’s standout scene, Mrs So and Wa-wai has a brutal confrontation over the latter’s failure to turn up for a commercial shoot. Zero To Hero fares the best when detailing the struggles and conflicts between mother and son.
Though to much lesser success, director and writer Jimmy Wan who has worked with Derek Tsang and Pang Ho-cheung over the years attempts to balance some of the drama with quirky humour. There’s a bunch of Wa-wai’s eccentric teammates in the beginning and a half-baked romantic subplot involving Fong’s sister that very much goes nowhere. End of the day, the spotlight lies solely on Mrs So and Wa-wai, hitting all the right notes whenever both are onscreen.
Theatre actor Leung Chung-hang is a refreshing addition to the ailing Hong Kong cinema, portraying an ordinary man’s road to being extraordinary with much dedication. The pain and anguish of a mother is deeply characterized by Sandra Ng who deserved at least an acting nomination for her genuinely moving performance. Veteran Ching Siu-ho who portrays Wa-wai’s father on the other hand is not given much screentime. Even Louis Cheung is very much side-lined in the end given this is a far more interesting and challenging part for the actor.
Anchored by strong performances on the whole and despite being a conventional, by-the-numbers sport fare, Zero To Hero manages to cross the finishing line with much respect and gung-ho. Surprisingly for a budgeted sports drama, the CGI rendered is amazingly credible and eye-popping too.
Review by Linus Tee