Distinction 非同凡響 (2018) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
There is a lot to think about, inspire about, ponder about and evaluate about in “Trivisa” Director Jevons Au’s latest effort in “Distinction”, also opening film of the Hong Kong Kids International Film Festival. The film goes deep, dwells in the real human emotions and nature in telling a story not often told about in Hong Kong, special education students and those that take great care of them - the families, the teachers, the peers. It goes without saying that Hong Kong is far too commercial, whether it be arts, the rising property prices, politics and simply being human is filtered with too much layers of hiding behind the truth. This film reflects all these cynical with special people who strive through difficulties and yet remain largely positive despite all that is going on in Hong Kong. We are all extraordinary in one way or another, but these people reminds us of the very essence of humanity, the presentation of reality and life.
Jennifer Yu performs convincingly as the high schooler growing up in a family of expectations and the tyrant of a Hong Kong typical and stressful educational system. Removed from dreams and what they really want to be, the system tells them to become like robots. Yu displays the level of innocence and struggles particularly well. The much missed Jo Koo makes a brilliant play on being the special education teacher. The difficulties, the struggles and the years of effort is shown extremely well as Koo dwells on this dilemma as to whether any progress can be made in this kind of environment. Kaki Sham shows the rawness of youth and rebellious nature that juxtapose the film and the theme extremely well. Stephen Au, the passionate teacher not particularly smart, but well meaning, acts like a crucial rock to the film. Veteran Chung King Fai as Yu’s grandpa provide the film most emotive and memorable moments. Cecilia Yip is surprisingly effective as typical middle class Hong Kong mother wanting the best for their child. As noted by the director, the main cast is composed of real special education students, the professionalism displayed throughout shows that they too can contribute to society and probably more.
All in all, “Distinction” is a rare Hong Kong film that speaks out about this still largely neglected topic in both cinema and society. These special people show that they can be “more human than human” and at its core, it’s about hope, humanity and living the life you want. Credos to the cast, crew and director Jevons Au in their pursue of the truth and what makes us human and for us all to just breathe and live.
I rate it 8.5/10