Ann Hui responded to both the tenth anniversary of June 4th 1989 and the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 with this ambitious 1999 film. Employing impressive structural and thematic density, Hui develops interlocking stories of various activists and HKers in the 1980s. Superb local actors Anthony Wong, Rachel Lee, Lee Kang-sheng and Tse Kwan-ho play a Marxist priest, social workers/activists and a calculating politician. Augustine Mok is the Trotskyite actor whose Temple Street agitprop performance frames the personal dramas.
Hui knows how to build subdued melodrama, and also how to pause her storytelling to capture (in Yu Lik-wai's electrically luminous photography) the texture of everyday altruism and idealistic action that can improve the lives of a great city's underclass. The film's shattering end, commemorating the Tiananmen movement, asks whether the hybrid modern Chinese-style society that HKers have created can really sustain a better, more just, freer way of life.