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Our Time Will Come
|     review    |     notes     |

Zhou Xun fights for the resistance in Our Time Will Come.


Year: 2017
Director: Ann Hui On-Wah

Roger Lee, Stephen Lam, Ann Hui On-Wah


He Jiping


Zhou Xun, Eddie Peng Yu-Yan, Wallace Huo, Deannie Yip Tak-Han, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Jessie Li, Babyjohn Choi, Stephen Au Kam-Tong, Ivana Wong, Guo Tao, Jiang Wenli, Masatoshi Nagase, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Adam Wong Sau-Ping, Huang Zhizhong, Bau Hei-Jing, Xiong Xin-Xin, Hugo Ng Doi-Yung, Ray Lui Leung-Wai, Yuen King-Tan, Leila Tong Ling, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Joman Chiang Cho-Man, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Stanley Fung Shui-Fan, Suzuka Morita

The Skinny:

Wartime spy thrills Ann Hui-style, which means Our Time Will Come is a subdued, sometimes relaxed drama with little manipulative filmmaking and plenty of surprising and even stirring humanity. Ann Hui's latest is marvelously detailed, impeccably acted and keenly observed. A Best Picture winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

by Kozo:

Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come is a World War II espionage drama, and it’s exactly what one might expect from the multi-award-winning filmmaker. That’s great for fans of Hui’s humanist concerns and low-key style, but moviegoers who fixate on certain signifiers (guns, spies, war) probably expect more bang for their buck. Those people might be disappointed, because this is not a wartime thriller, and is instead a marvelously detailed portrait of average people and how they cope with the dangerous times in which they live. Hui finds extraordinary drama and tension in He Jiping’s finely observed screenplay, and the everyday heroism on display is genuinely moving. At the same time, the film offers wry observations that entertainingly subvert expectations about life during wartime. This is an intelligent and subtle epic told in Ann Hui’s trademark style, and easily deserves mention alongside her other acclaimed works.

Taking place in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong in World War II, Our Time Will Come is a fact-based portrait of local resistance fighters and the struggle against their Japanese oppressors. The key protagonist is Fong Lan (Zhou Xun), a schoolteacher who becomes involved in espionage when gangster and freedom fighter Blackie Lau (Eddie Peng) arrives at her apartment complex to escort her neighbor, novelist and future Chinese official Mao Dun (Guo Tao), out of reach of the Japanese. Meanwhile, Lan’s estranged boyfriend Kam-wing (Wallace Huo) works for the Japanese military while quietly collaborating with the resistance. Impressed with her intelligence and demeanor, Blackie recruits Lan to the cause, but this opens up a larger world with even greater dangers to Lan and her mother Mrs, Fong (Deanie Yip), who obstinately instructs Lan to stay out of trouble.

What follows is a subdued, sometimes relaxed film that’s largely devoid of manipulative filmmaking. Eschewing commercial film technique when making a tense wartime drama seems counterintuitive, but Ann Hui succeeds handily because her situations are so detailed and incisive. Hui sets up her tension naturally by focusing on war’s effect on common people and their daily lives, and conflicts are built-up or defused in unexpected ways that feel true. Information smuggling becomes even more unnerving when the participants are victims of poor luck or their own inexperience. Events that would be portrayed romantically or histrionically in another filmmaker’s hands are quickly resolved or rendered anti-climactic. Also, crucial moments show that a heroic response is sometimes not possible. These are normal people who fight their oppressors in whatever way they can, and sometimes the struggle is insurmountable. Yet witnessing these everyday heroes fail, pick themselves up, and still find the resolve to move forward can be inspiring.

The lead actors range from sublime (Zhou Xun, Deanie Yip) to just OK (Wallace Huo), with Eddie Peng providing star presence as the charismatic if somewhat incongruous freedom fighter. Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase impresses in a pivotal role as a Japanese military officer. Aside from Deanie Yip, the biggest names in Our Time Will Come are not from Hong Kong, which reflects the local film industry’s declining cachet across Asia. However, many Hong Kong actors are present in cameos or supporting roles, most notably Tony Leung Ka-fai, who appears in interview segments set in the present day. His scenes frame Our Time Will Come from the perspective of a local survivor of the war – a POV that speaks to Hong Kong’s resilient people and their activist spirit. In Our Time Will Come, their voices and experiences shine through splendidly. (Kozo, 4/2018)


Review was originally published in April 2018 in the Far East Film Festival catalog for the Udine Far East Film Festival. Reprinted with permission.

 Copyright 2002-2018 Ross Chen