Back to the Wharf

Chinese noir about how life turns on a dime. Song Hao is a conscientious student on track for university, after years of hard work and good choices. Then he is told his university spot has been given to another student, Li Tang, his friend and the son of the corrupt mayor. Both he and his father storm out the house to speak to Li Tang. Song Hao arrives in Li Tang’s neighbourhood first, but goes into the wrong house. There, the inhabitant is surprised by him and attacks him believing him to be a burglar. In the struggle Song Hao stabs the man, and runs off in a panic. His life is over.

His father arrives moments later, only to see Song Hao fleeing, and assuming he must have been arguing with Li Tang, enters the same house. Upon discovery of the wounded man, he kills him for fear of the shame and ruin that will befall his family if the man is able to tell his story. Unbeknownst to father and son is that their coming and goings from the house has been witnessed by Li Tang from his bedroom window in the house across the road. That night, the mayor makes up for stealing Song Hao’s university place by promoting his father to a lucrative position, but Song Hao cannot cope and runs away.

The rest of the film takes place 15 years later, when Song Hao returns for the funeral of his mother. Li Tang is now a wealthy property developer, and Song Hao’s father has started a new family with a new son to carry on the family name without disgrace or ignominy. But old sins cast long shadows, and the question of whether Song Hao can ever quiet his guilty conscience enough to start a new life is one that wavers throughout the film.

This is also a film about class and corruption in China. Li Tang is almost like the Joker, constantly laughing and smiling, but utterly indifferent to the people he walks over to get what he wants. In his designer suits and lavish lifestyle, he acts like life has been oh-so good to him. Meanwhile, Song Hao did everything right, had it all taken away from him, and his life became a downward spiral of misfortune. The story of these two schoolfriends is a bit like Blood Brothers, as the passage of time only seems to deepen the power disparity between them.

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