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'All Shall Be Well' Until Tragedy Strikes

Courtesy of the Hong Kong International Film Festival

In All Shall Be Well, Ray Yeung’s focus on romance, rather than being youthful flights of fancy or mid-life ennui, here shifts its focus to the calmer, more stable stasis of being an older couple — and similar to Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange (itself a spiritual successor to Leo McCrarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow), the focus is on an older queer couple.

Where Sachs had Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as an erudite pairing of New Yorkers, here we have two Hong Kongers, Angie (Patra Au Ga Man) and Pat (Maggie Li Lin Lin), who have lived together comfortably in a spacious flat owned by Pat for over 30 years. And like Love is Strange, Make Way for Tomorrow and Yasujiro Ozu’s (a noted influence on the work of Yeung) Tokyo Story, the older couple here find their calm, orderly world suddenly turned upside down. What follows is a tender, yet very painful, examination of the comfortable, easeful dynamic shared between a couple and the way their implosion can tear the world apart. 

The opening of the film shows Angie and Pat going about their daily errands. Yeung and cinematographer Leung Ming Kai’s camera floats around with a casual ease following the two, with Au and Li portraying such a rich history together in their every interaction, the quiet introversion of Au as the more reserved Angie contrasting beautifully with the more exuberant performance by Li, who shines as the life of the party, captured in a family gathering she organises at their flat that evening. This sequence introduces us to Pat’s family: her brother Shing (Tai Bo) and his wife Mei (Hui So Ying), and their grown up children Victor (Leung Chung Hang) and Fanny (Fish Liew Chi Yu). Life has been hard on them financially, but in Pat and Angie’s flat, the warmth of their interactions as they eat, drink, converse, and play games with one another creates such a wonderful chemistry among the ensemble. 

This makes it all the more striking when their world is upended by a sudden tragedy. After the party, Pat suddenly dies in her sleep; a grieving Angie, whose entire life has revolved around Pat, struggles to adapt. Pat’s family at first tries to be supportive, but in a grimly realistic fashion, the matters of Pat’s burial, will, inheritance and the ownership of the flat Angie and Pat lived in, which only Pat has legal ownership of, causes a burgeoning rift between the parties. 

Yeung’s touches as a filmmaker from the outset are largely understated and gentle, choosing to capture the actors in a way where we feel very much at home with them, sitting at the table with them as they carry out their conversations. This makes the development of the film’s interactions into much more pointed, barbed words to be all the more striking. His screenplay, bar a few lines which feel a bit too on the nose or expository, find a naturalistic way of finding this conflict between Angie and Pat’s family. 

Angie’s queerness is inextricably bound to the growing animosity by the latter; though they never express outright bigotry, they often refer to her as Pat’s ‘old friend’ to outsiders, pushing her away from the true nature of her relationship with Pat. Equally painful are the moments where we see Victor and Fanny, who we had seen prior sharing a deep, warm bond with Angie, making hurtful suggestions to her when discussing the will and inheritance. 

The growing sense that Pat’s family are losing patience with Angie and that her goodwill with them is fading is slowly, powerfully articulated, leaving Lin with quite the challenge in her performance to carry all these conflicting emotions. All Shall Be Well gives the veteran actress a terrific showcase, honing in on Angie dealing with the deep void left by her beloved’s passing, never shying away from the moments of vulnerability, and making the ways in which she finds her strength and footing all the more powerful. Building its way to an ending that is extraordinary in its great impact, that needs to be seen to be believed. 


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