To anyone familiar with the Hong Kong New Wave cinema of the 80s, Patrick Tam needs no introduction. His 1982 classic Nomad, confronted realistic topics of sex and violence with unflinching brutality, sending a seismic shockwave throughout the film industry. He is also widely regarded as Wong Kar Wai’s teacher, and as the editor of the infamous scene with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai at the end of Wong’s Days of Being Wild.
But after his award-winning 1989 film My Heart is That Eternal Rose, Tam stopped directing and turned to film editing on select projects (one of them being Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time). Nearly 17 years later, to everyone’s great surprise, he announced his latest directorial effort, After This Our Exile.
The result is everything we’d expect from a veteran director like Tam. In his expert hands, the actors, led by heartthrob Aaron Kwok and former idol Charlie Yeung, turn in the performances of their careers. Kwok plays a former playboy way past his prime – broke, in debt, and struggling to keep his family together. Yeung plays his long-suffering partner, who is faced with the difficult decision to create a new life for herself, or be saddled with a violent man she no longer loves. And in the middle of it all is the innocent son, who witnesses his family’s disintegration and is forced into a vagabond life with his father. Kwok is every bit the man-child he portrays — a barking, nervous shadow of a once-proud man. Yeung also excels, bringing a sexy vulnerability to her role. Shot in the steamy, tropical locale of Malaysia, this shattering drama easily ranks as one of the best in Hong Kong cinema in many years.