Director: Allen Fong
Ah Ying is a 22-year-old woman, living in squalid conditions and working at the family fish stall at Hong Kong's bustling market. Eventually, through her attendance at drama classes, she is able to mentally break through the drudgery of her daily existence. Her progress is charted with a deft blend of comedy and pathos, the theme building slowly through a series of clever vignettes to present a portrait of the young heroine that is both poignant and believable.
Fong steers a delicate course between Ah Ying's developing relationship with her drama teacher and her occasional returns to the parental home (where a family of ten is housed in two cramped rooms). The teacher himself is an American-Chinese, now sojourning in Hong Kong while he awaits news of a filmmaking assignment in the US. Peter Wang makes of this character a brilliant comic creation - his ‘American' brashness contrasting with the more serene attitudes of his Chinese pupils, his struggles to communicate in Cantonese rather than the Mandarin with which he is more comfortable, his obsession with success as contrasted with Ah Ying's desire for self-knowledge. Ying represents a more traditional aspect of Chinese culture, complete with its familial bonds and responsibilities - although she is initially dissatisfied with this role. Eventually however, she is able to accept the best of both worlds, something which director Fong also appears to manage with astonishing dexterity. For while the only real comparison to Ah Ying may be Fong's earlier Father and Son, there are shadings here that manage to suggest simultaneously Ozu and Cukor.