Not a lot “happens” in this character study film, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It’s the story of Anke (played by Anke Bak, the director’s mother), a German woman of a certain age who has just retired and is looking forward to a trip to the beach with all her children. But her son doesn’t make it home for the gathering. He lives in Hong Kong and the pro-democracy protests there interfere with his flight. (Or so he says.) So she decides to go there to see him. Only he’s away, and so she spends her time alone wandering the city and coming to terms with her life.
Anke tells her daughter in the early scenes that she’s never felt at home any place she’s lived. Her relationships with her children are not all warm and fuzzy either. The fact that her son isn’t there to welcome her in Hong Kong is no biggie. She takes it in stride that she can’t get into his apartment and has to spend the night in a shared room at a hostel. But once she’s ensconced in his high-rise in the bustle of Hong Kong, she goes out into the city, relying on friendly people who converse with her in English to make her way around. The protests are out there, just blocks away, but they never actually intrude on her meandering.
She meets with a series of people, each giving her the opportunity to look at her life through a different lens: young women sad to leave the city because it’s too hard to get a job, the doorman at her son’s apartment building who takes her to a local lunch spot, a psychiatrist who tells her about her son’s and possibly her own depression, a social activist, and a fortune teller who tells her what she already knows.
The soundtrack from Brian Eno sets the mood for this small dream-like meditation on aging and connection. And at just 79 minutes it doesn’t linger too long (most of the time) on any scene. With this spare narrative first time director Jonas Bak has demonstrated that he is a filmmaker to watch. It’s definitely a film for the arty crowd, and to them I recommend it.
Opening in New York @MOMA on March 24 with a Los Angeles and national release to follow. Stay tuned.