Soursweet (1988)

Soursweet (1988)

Just married Hong Kong couple Chen & Lily emigrate to England, soon to become parents to a little baby boy and generally struggle through life. Chen works long days in a restaurant, while Lily does the housekeeping, daydreaming of setting up their own business, much to Chen’s chagrin. When Chen lets his colleague Fok seduce him down a path of mounting gambling debts, he is recruited as a drug courier for a shadowy Chinese triad. Suddenly he realizes that getting their own enterprise could be their only means of escape.

Soursweet is a 1988 British film directed by Mike Newell. The story, set in the 1960s, is a comedy drama about a young Hong Kong Chinese couple who emigrate to England and start a family. Initially Chen works long hours in a Chinese restaurant while his wife Lily looks after their baby, dreaming of the day when they can open their own business. When Chen becomes indebted to Triads through gambling he decides it is time for his family to go it alone. The screenplay was written by Ian McEwan from the novel Sour Sweet by Timothy Mo.

About the Film

Ian McEwan updated Timothy Mo’s 1960s-set novel to the early 1980s for this perceptive tale about a newlywed Hong Kong couple who come to London to find a better life. Mo’s Booker-shortlisted novel captures the joys and pains that come with starting a new life in a distant country and offers a uniquely Chinese take on life in the UK.

McEwan and director Mike Newell successfully translate the book’s awareness of the eccentricities of British and Chinese cultures and has great fun contrasting both ways of life. The film has come under criticism for failing to depict the major subplot – about criminal activity among Soho’s triad gangs – with the same authenticity, but compelling central performances from Chinese star Sylvia Chang and newcomer Danny Dun outweigh the gripes. Showing the exhilaration, adventure and sheer hard work of the Chinese migrant experience, Soursweet offers a darkly humorous perspective on the trials of living so far from home.

Soursweet Movie Poster (1988)

Soursweet (1988)

Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Sylvia Chang, Danny Dun, Jodi Long, Soon-Tek Oh, William Chow, Shih-Chieh Chin, Speedy Choo, Jim Carter, Craig Fairbrass
Screenplay by: Ian McEwan
Cinematography by: Michael Garfath
Film Editing by: Mick Audsley
Costume Design by: Pip Newbery
Music by: Richard Hartley
Distributed by: Curzon
Release Date: September 13, 1988