HK housing satire brings on some laughs

Mr Lo (Francis Ng, centre) and his wife (Anita Yuen, left) gets into a bureaucratic battle with a new neighbour (Louis Koo, right) when he erects a billboard that blocks their apartment's view of the sea.
Mr Lo (Francis Ng, centre) and his wife (Anita Yuen, left) gets into a bureaucratic battle with a new neighbour (Louis Koo, right) when he erects a billboard that blocks their apartment's view of the sea.PHOTO: NETFLIX

A Hong Kong family's dream home turns into a nightmare in A Home With A View, which is adapted from a play

COMEDY

A HOME WITH A VIEW (NC16)

91 minutes/Netflix/4 Stars

The story: In the Lo family apartment, the worst keeps happening. Their upstairs neighbour is a pork seller who chops meat loudly in the evenings and downstairs lives a pipe smoker who blows smoke out of his window and into theirs. This and other tribulations make the lives of Mr Lo (Francis Ng) and his wife (Anita Yuen) and their two teenage children a misery.

When a new neighbour (Louis Koo) erects a billboard, blocking their apartment's view of the sea, the family is drawn into a bureaucratic battle that will test the limits of their sanity.


Hong Kong's housing situation is an endless source of inspiration for playwrights and screenwriters. Buying a flat there costs an arm and a leg, a situation that characters in ghoulish comedies take literally.

Dream Home (2010) tracks a woman who slaughters her way into a good bargaining position for a flat, while the play Family Surprise is about a family who resorts to unorthodox measures to get rid of a billboard blocking their sea view.

That stage production has been adapted into a film by prolific director Herman Yau, he of the Category III exploitation cult classic Ebola Syndrome (1996) starring Anthony Wong, who also appears in this film.

In quick, efficient brush strokes, Yau establishes that the Los are a Hong Kong family housed in an apartment they can afford only by denying themselves all other pleasures, such as vacations abroad.

Through the use of rapid-fire Canto-crosstalk - the use of "chee sin", meaning crazy, is a frequent exclamation - audiences discover that the apartment is both the cause of, and the solution to, all their problems. The unit is driving them insane, but at least it is theirs.

Mr Lo (Ng) works as a shady property agent who illegally rents sub-divided factory spaces to the poor.

In the best tradition of cynical Hong Kong comedies in which every character is unlikable, he ignores their pleas when they complain of overcrowding, even as he wails about officials who turn a deaf ear to his complaints about the billboard blocking their sliver of a sea view.

Things, as they tend to do in these bleak satires, take a bloody turn. Nobody here could be mistaken for a realistic, fleshed-out character, and the film's origins as a play are a little too obvious in how it leans on dialogue for exposition.

But there are real laughs - or rather, bitter chuckles - to be had in this quick, 90-minute trip into the Hong Kong dream that, for many, is more like a nightmare.

• To watch the trailer, go to https://bit.ly/2HJj8j1

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'HK housing satire brings on some laughs'. Print Edition | Subscribe