Mad World

Yat Nim Mou Ming

Wong ChunHong Kong101 minutes201614AColourCantonese

Top Hong Kong stars Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang star in this daring independent drama about a former financial analyst suffering from severe bipolar disorder, who is released from a mental health facility into the unwilling custody of his truck-driver father.

Hong Kong cinema, focused on creating box-office megahits to feed the superpower of the mainland's film industry, seldom reflects the psychology and life of real individuals — or the new sets of problems that have come with fast-paced social and economic change. In this context, Wong Chun's first feature is most welcome. Mad World is an accomplished film about an unlikely hero who struggles with his mental illness, his sense of failure, and the hurtful ignorance surrounding him.

Tung (Shawn Yue) has just been dismissed from the mental hospital where he's spent the last few years suffering from a severe form of bipolar disorder. He is not cured; his illness is one that can at best be managed. Once a successful financial analyst, Tung lost his job due to a nervous breakdown, and no one is willing to hire him back.

Tung's father (Eric Tsang) is less than happy to have him back home in his tiny single-room apartment. A truck driver who must often travel to China, he's overcome with worry whenever he has to go away, leaving Tung and his medication regime unsupervised. During these periods of solitude, Tung is either at the mercy of nosy, narrow-minded neighbours or, worse, left alone with the ghosts of his past. That past is the source of rifts and resentment between father and son, and its invisible presence may suffocate them both in this claustrophobic shared space. Soon, though, the hostile world outside the apartment presents a whole other set of difficulties.

Posing the question of how to effect change in contemporary Hong Kong, Mad World carries a poignant message — one ennobled by the commanding presence of high-profile Hong Kong stars Tsang and Yue, for whom this independent film of great integrity is clearly a labour of love.

GIOVANNA FULVI

Mental HealthEast AsiaFirst FeatureDiscrimination