Following the death of his wife, Cheng (Pak Hon Chu) travels with his son Niu Niu (Lucas Hsuan) to Pohjanjoki, a remote traditional village in the Finnish countryside. He wants to find a man he knows as Fongkong, and repay him for the help he gave in paying off debts and restarting his restaurant. When Cheng arrives, no-one has heard of Fongkong, the nearest hotel is 40 miles away and as the diner they have taken refuge in begins getting ready to close, he is a bit stuck for what to do. Thankfully, the diner owner Sirkka (Anna-Maija Tuokko) is a kindly sort, and offers him a room in her home for the night.

A Yellow Affair

They rattle on happily, communicating with each other in broken English, with Cheng bringing his cooking skills to the local community. In a place where previously every day was sausage day, his recipes healing the populace and bringing a new spring to Sirkka’s business. Cheng and his son find a new happiness here, and a relationship blossoms between him and Sirkka.

There are some minor conflicts, both are recovering from a loss, and there is some question over Cheng’s legality in Finland. These are minor though, and are resolved without too much hardship. The focus of the story is the melding of the two cultures, the food bringing them together and the resolution of the affection between Cheng and his son. There is real warmth here, with Cheng being a character who is almost too perfect in his patient determination to help everyone around him without pay.

There is a risk of Master Cheng feeling saccharine, but this is combatted by the absolute believability that a delicious meal can right all wrongs, along with some genuinely charming humour, wordplay, and miscommunication. There is no emphasis on one culture over another either, as they both learn from each other and form an almost idyllic balance.

A Yellow Affair

Jari Mutikainen’s cinematography takes in the expanses of the Finnish landscape, with wooden buildings butting up against enormous forests and lakes. The score from Anssi Tikanmäki starts inspired by northern European folk, with Chinese accents slowly creeping in as Cheng settles into his new home.

Director Mika Kaurismäki has encouraged earnest performances from his cast with the affection between them feeling real and honest, helped along by Hannu Oravisto’s script, which is unpretentious and believable.

Master Cheng is a sweet and enjoyable feelgood film, just what we need in a world where conflict is everywhere.

Master Cheng will be in UK Cinemas from 11th March

 

By Erika Bean

Blogger at screeningviolets.wordpress.com Occasional guest and host on the FILM & PODCAST. New cohost on Mondo Moviehouse. Likes arguing on the beach, long walks on the internet, intersectional feminism and neurodiversity.