The Sunny of the Street

Home is as ill-defined as it is hard to find in Lau Kok-rui’s thoughtful drama.

“I don’t know where to go.”

This is what Hassan (Sahal Zaman), a young boy from a family of Pakistani refugees, tells Yat (Anthony Wong), a grumpy, conservative and pretty xenophobic taxi driver. He’s not wrong, either. His family fled Pakistan when his father, a lawyer, was targeted by gangs; he is treated like a crimibnal here in Hong Kong, and Canada – the place where their friends have recently immigrated to – is proving tougher than expected to get to. Hassan has no one to talk to, and the one person who is listening is really only doing so because he’s responsible for the death of his father.

On the way back from his son’s wedding – with whom he has something of an icy relationship – Yat runs into a van driven by Hassan’s father Ahmed (Inderjeet Singh). The police interferes and brings them both to the station. A few days later, Yat and his friend decide to harass Ahmed into rescinding his statement. When Ahmed refuses, Yat chases after him in his taxi causing an accident which breaks Yat’s leg but, more importantly, kills Ahmed. Yat finds out Ahmed’s wife Fatimah (Kiranjeet Gill) doesn’t have enough money for the funeral, and decides to help out, where he starts to see the damage that he and others like him have done to the communities, and more importantly, the children within them.

Anthony Wong has played a lot of unlikable people in his career, notably in his early days, but there’s something particularly interesting about Yat. He isn’t a villain here, and we’re supposed to sympathise with him, at least partially. This makes it quite difficult, especially at first. Yat is more an anti-hero, who hasn’t been able to take responsibility for all of his actions up until this point in his life. That it takes a man to die for him to even consider doing the right thing is pretty damning for his character, but it’s probably disappointingly par for the course with some people.

This also isn’t the first time a misanthropic Wong has befriended an immigrant, either. 2018’s Still Human had a slightly similar premise, but with a focus on feel-good storytelling and a main character who learnt to open himself up to both new cultures and new friends. The Sunny Side of the Street is far from that, with a much more grim look at the lives of refugees in Hong Kong (and arguably the entire world), and writer-director Lau Kok-rui doesn’t shy away from it.

The film is bolstered by some incredible acting, with Wong giving us a lot of nuance to a character that could have come off as fully unappealing, while Zaman absolutely kills it as Hassan, and steals every scene with his subtle but powerful performance. The Sunny Side of the Street is no Still Human it’s dark and bleak, but is optimistic about the future. If a character like Yat can change, surely we all can.

Verdict: Strikingly honest in its storytelling and visuals The Sunny Side of the Street tells a complex story that’s hardly uplifting, but well worth a watch.

Overall entertainment: 8/10
Violence: 2/10
Sex: 0/10
Bittersweetness: 8/10
Goggles: Those must have been prescription, surely
Secret villain: Ali. He gave Ahmed a dud fridge knowingly, I’m sure of it
Numan: You gotta stop leading that kid astray, man

The Sunny Side of the Street (2022)
Also known as: 白日青春, (Daytime Youth)
Cantonese, Urdu

Director: Lau Kok-rui
Writer: Lau Kok-rui


Anthony Wong – Yat
Sahal Zaman – Hassan
Endy Chow – Hong
Inderjeet Singh – Ahmed
Kiranjeet Gill – Fatimah
Fire Lee – Wai
Lau Shek Yon – Sin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s