No Law, No Heaven is a Hong Kong short movie about an adolescent raised in an impoverished neighbourhood. Since childhood, the main character lived in poor conditions with his family. He seems resigned to inheriting his father's local restaurant instead of pursuing bigger dreams. The protagonist befriends a British tourist with a passion for photography. They form a connection despite coming from different walks of life.
The award-winning No Law, No Heaven shows remarkable storytelling prowess for a student film. The adolescent tale examines many mature themes, from economic hardships to family expectations. It also highlights Hong Kong's history, culture, and traditions with a cinematic flair. The protagonist's gay sexual awakening adds another complex layer to the plot. Plus, the sensitive acting performances elevate this poignant short movie.
No Law No Heaven Summary
Around 24 minutes
Sad and emotional
Yes, there is a gay romance.
During childhood, Ming grew up in Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. This densely populated district housed many citizens, many of whom lived in impoverished conditions. It experienced high crime, gambling, drug use, and prostitution. Ming spent his adolescence in these undesirable surroundings with his parents and relatives. Since Ming didn't have any siblings or cousins, he was often alone. He wandered around the neighbourhood alone, from market stalls to empty rooftops.
Ming's parents operated a restaurant selling fish ball soup. His hardworking family was busy with the business, leaving him to his own devices. Although Ming is close to his family, they are strict and place certain restrictions on him. They expect him to inherit the family business, even though he aspires to be a musician instead. Yet, Ming will put aside his ambitions to support his loved ones.
As Ming grew older, he started helping out at the restaurant. One day, a British tourist named Liam visited. Liam is a boarding school student who visits Hong Kong on vacation. He seems fascinated by the culture inside Kowloon Walled City. Liam, who only speaks English, has difficulty communicating with other Hong Kong citizens. Ming welcomes the newcomer and introduces him to various customs, like the local cuisine.
Ming and Liam discuss their plans for the future. Liam reveals he has a fractured relationship with his parents. He broke free from his family and pursued his interests. Liam is passionate about photography and wants to see the world. Ming envies his companion's ambition. In contrast, he seems resigned to his fate, which involves settling down and running the family restaurant. Yet, Liam inspires Ming to dream boldly.
No Law No Heaven Cast
Jam Kwan (詹成鈞)
Ming lives in the impoverished district of Kowloon Walled City with his parents and relatives. Their family runs a restaurant selling fish balls, which he will inherit in adulthood. Ming is loyal to his family and wants to support them financially. However, he struggles with giving up his dreams of becoming a musician.
Jam Kwan (詹成鈞) is a Hong Kong actor. His first BL project is the 2020 drama, Hehe & He Season 2. He also appeared in two 2021 short films, including Like A Marriage and No Law, No Heaven.
Liam is a British tourist who visits Hong Kong on vacation. He is fascinated by the vibrant culture inside Kowloon Walled City. Liam can only speak English and struggles to communicate with the local citizens. Fortunately, he meets Ming, who becomes his guide to the city. Liam is passionate about photography and wants to travel the world.
Torio Wong (黃嗣舜)
Dick Lei (黎偉森)
Moyin Tsui (徐慕然)
Kelvin Wong (黃耀文)
Sau Ling Yu (余秀玲)
Gary Lee (李耀堂)
Chun Tse (謝進)
- Ming's actor (Jam Kwan) appeared in the second season of the Hong Kong BL comedy Hehe & He. His role is the straight roommate of the lead character. In addition, Jam played a gay character in the 2021 short film Like A Marriage.
No Law No Heaven Review
Movie Review Score: 8.3
No Law, No Heaven is an impressive short film with many intricate layers. On one level, it offers a unique glimpse into the past, depicting an era of economic hardship and traditional cultural norms. In addition, the movie examines an adolescent's intimate journey of self-discovery. The sheltered protagonist feels curious about the world outside his confined boundaries, leading to his gay sexual awakening. No Law, No Heaven seamlessly weaves together these complex themes to produce a captivating narrative.
The story takes place in Kowloon Walled City, a lawless region where many Hong Kong residents used to live. No Law, No Heaven wants viewers to experience what it's like to grow up in this impoverished environment. It portrays the gritty underworld through the eyes of the young protagonist. He goes on an adventure, from visiting market stalls to spying on prostitutes. In a matter of minutes, No Law, No Heaven has constructed a vibrant fictional universe brimming with activity and ambiance. The director shows masterful filmmaking prowess in making every detail come to life.
No Law, No Heaven explores the concepts of anarchy, adversity, and autonomy. Anarchy refers to the chaos and disarray of The Walled City, which the main character calls home. Adversity describes the challenges that Ming faces as part of the underprivileged. He lacks money, resources, and opportunities to improve his conditions. Autonomy is what Ming wants but can't have. He must put aside his dreams and desires to appease his family, who dictates the trajectory of his life. No Law, No Heaven handles each storyline thoughtfully, crafting a sophisticated narrative.
The love story isn't the primary focus of No Law, No Heaven, but it plays a significant role in the plot. Ming meets Liam, a foreigner who triggers his gay awakening. Liam is also a beacon of ambition and independence, two aspirational qualities that Ming lacks. I enjoy the couple's cozy interactions and understand the basis of their attraction. However, their whirlwind romance feels condensed for the sake of time. The movie tries to squeeze in as much bonding as possible, albeit their connection still seems lacklustre. This relationship needs more development.
No Law, No Heaven divides itself into three chapters, each representing a different stage of Ming's life. Little Ming's actor (Torio Wong) is adorable with expressive eyes and brings a childlike wonder to the role. Similarly, I love the dreaminess of Ming's adult actor (Jam Kwan). He captures the protagonist's gentle and sensitive demeanour, from his bashful gazes to his delicate mannerisms. Likewise, Old Ming's actor (Dick Lei) injects an air of wisdom and wistfulness that comes with aging. All the performers add new dimensions to the main character's portrayal.
The transition from Ming's adolescence to adulthood is missing some clarity. The story glosses over many years of the protagonist's life after growing up, likely due to time constraints. I would've liked a longer film that fleshed out more of his experiences as he aged. Nonetheless, the poignant ending packs an emotional punch, brilliantly conveying the narrative themes. Overall, I'm astounded by the skillful storytelling in No Law, No Heaven, especially from a student filmmaker. This award-winning short movie is polished, professional, and a phenomenal work of art.
No Law, No Heaven weaves together many complex plots seamlessly. Each storyline is captivating, from depicting Hong Kong's history and culture to exploring an intimate adolescent journey.
I enjoy the couple's cozy interactions and the main character's gay awakening. However, the whirlwind romance seems condensed. The relationship is not fully developed due to time constraints.
All three lead actors are talented and bring new dimensions to the role. My favourite is Ming's actor (Jam Kwan), who gives a sensitive performance and adds a gentle touch to the protagonist.
No Law, No Heaven has a sad ending as Ming reflects on his past wistfully. However, the conclusion also contains a hopeful message. The final scene indicates Ming's liberated mindset.
The movie has created a vibrant fictional universe brimming with activity and ambiance. The film also embeds Hong Kong's history, culture, and traditions into the narrative.
No Law, No Heaven is a fascinating short movie that explores many intricate themes, including the lead's gay awakening. I enjoy the film's sophisticated storytelling, sensitive acting, and stylish artistry.
No Law No Heaven Movie Explained
The first shot of the movie is telling. We see an image of the child protagonist behind a cage, almost like he is trapped inside. It's a powerful visual metaphor, symbolizing his confinement in an impoverished life from the start of his life. Little Ming has no control over his upbringing. He is born into a poor family and faces a world of limitations. He must grow up in the Kowloon Walled City, a densely populated area filled with crime, filth, and economic hardships. This is the place he calls home.
The opening scenes highlight Ming's undesirable conditions. The wide-eyed child eyes tasty snacks and fun toys, yet he doesn't have the money to afford these items. Later, Ming copies a vendor picking his nose in public. He imitates bad habits due to being raised in a dodgy environment. As Ming runs around the market, we see deteriorated walls, broken windows, and litter everywhere. Imagine spending your childhood in these grubby surroundings. Ming's life is sadly not very promising.
Ming escapes to the rooftop with a birdcage. He stares at the caged animal for a while. Again, the movie reiterates the symbolism of imprisonment. Suddenly, Ming stretches his arm at the sky. The camera pans upwards as an airplane flies across the building. For the first time, we see a bright, expansive world beyond the boundaries of The Walled City. This visual represents Ming's limited scope. There are many possibilities and opportunities outside his reach. Yet, he remains stuck in a confined space with little freedom to try new experiences or enjoy his childhood.
Ming becomes curious and spies on a prostitute having sex with a foreign sailor. The camera deliberately fixates on his body instead of hers, showcasing the handsome man's curves. The movie hints that Ming is interested in the same sex. Even at a young age, he exhibits an inclination toward men.
Afterwards, the sailor hands Ming a piece of candy as a present. He savours the treat in his bedroom. However, he doesn't consume it after chewing. Instead, Ming spits out the snack and preserves it in the wrapper. Near the end of the film, we see Old Ming take out this sweet from his memorabilia box. He has held onto the keepsake after all these years. Although it may seem like a piece of trash to most people, he cherishes the confection like a precious treasure.
The candy symbolizes Ming's first taste of liberty. The delicacy came from outside The Walled City, introducing him to a new luxury unattainable in his home. Ming appreciates this moment because he gets to experience something beyond his basic necessities. The treat becomes a metaphor for the sweetness of liberation, a momentary escape from the harsh realities of his upbringing. Later, Ming stares out the window with a faint smile. While Ming is still trapped in a crappy home, he can see a world of boundless possibilities outside. There is hope for him.
Years later, Ming grew into a gentle, soft-spoken young man with a sensitive demeanour. He likes to play the guitar and aspires to be a musician. Yet, the harsh reality is that he doesn't have money and can't afford to pursue his dreams. Sadly, Ming has limited career options due to his financial constraints. Ming is also loyal to his family. He doesn't have the heart to abandon his parents, who worked hard to support their only child. Ming seems resigned to inheriting his dad's restaurant as his fate.
Then, Ming met Liam. Unlike Ming, the charming foreigner has no intention of staying home to support his family. Instead, he left and lived independently at the earliest opportunity. Liam is eager to pursue his passions, which include photography and travelling. Ming grows attracted to Liam due to what he represents. His love interest's ambition, independence, and sense of adventure are highly appealing. As they chatted about dreams, Ming spoke of a life beyond running the restaurant. Liam inspires Ming to break free from the traditional path and explore new experiences.
Furthermore, Liam triggers a gay sexual awakening in Ming. Like many men around this era, Ming repressed his same-sex attraction due to cultural norms and family traditions. His parents expect him to settle down with a woman. Having relations with another guy is unthinkable and unspeakable. Yet, Liam gives Ming the courage to pursue his desires. Their first kiss is momentous because Ming defies his family and stops appeasing them. Finally, he follows his heart instead of his parents' orders. This romantic encounter feels liberating and marks Ming's independence.
Unfortunately, Ming and Liam's romance doesn't last long. Ming's family disapproves of the foreigner, even when introduced as a friend. They dismiss him as a "gweilo", a derogatory term in Cantonese to describe Caucasians. They also warn Ming not to mingle with Liam due to their different backgrounds, from his ethnicity to privilege. There is a noticeable cultural clash. Ming's ignorant parents only see Liam as an outsider who doesn't belong in this community.
During dinner, Ming's aunt seems more benevolent toward the household guest. She welcomes Liam and encourages Ming to interact with people of diverse cultures. Despite her hospitability, she catches her nephew getting intimate with a guy and snitches on him. Not even the most open-minded person in Ming's family accepts him as a gay man. The movie doesn't need to show how the parents react to their son's sexuality. We can already guess the vitriol of their bigotry.
Later, Ming avoids Liam and doesn't say goodbye to him. His parents must have forced him to end their relationship. Sadly, the movie's ongoing theme is that Ming lacks autonomy and self-governance. He doesn't have any say over the trajectory of his future. Ming's family decides on his career, home, and relationship. He must comply with his parents and settle down traditionally, even if it means repressing his romantic desires. Like the caged imagery at the film's beginning, Ming is imprisoned to his unfortunate circumstances with little freedom and no independence.
No Law No Heaven Ending Explained
No Law, No Heaven has a sad ending where Ming and Liam don't get back together after their breakup. The final chapter jumps decades later when Ming is a widowed older man. He married a woman, but his wife died recently from illness. His parents also passed away. In addition, Ming inherited the family business and continued selling famous fish ball noodles. Although Ming never left his home, the government plans to dismantle Kowloon Walled City soon. He must resettle elsewhere.
Old Ming befriends Kit, a young boy who works for him. Ming treats the child kindly, feeding him meals and sharing a few stories. Kit's character is an emblem of adolescence, reminding Ming when he used to be young and hopeful. Kit inspires the protagonist to reflect and reminisce. During one conversation, Ming digs up his box of memorabilia. Inside, you won't find keepsakes of his deceased wife. Instead, Ming stores old photographs that he took with Liam. Despite ending their relationship, Ming still remembers his first love and cherishes their time together.
During another chat, Old Ming brings out his guitar and plays it for a while. Music used to be close to his heart, but he gave up this personal pursuit to run the family business. Ming also mentions his wife hated the guitar, implying she didn't support his dreams. Ming taking the guitar out of storage shows that his priorities have changed. Now in his old age, he has regained his enthusiasm for music. Unlike his younger self, Old Ming can freely pursue his passion. Many years may have passed, but Ming finally has the luxury to do something that makes him happy.
The final scene shows Old Ming looking over a snapshot of himself and Liam. He describes Liam as "a good friend" to Kit. Surprisingly, Ming puts the picture beside photos of his deceased parents and wife in the shrine. This gesture is significant. It indicates that he cherishes his relationship with Liam, assigning an equal significance to his other loved ones. Liam is important enough to be placed side-by-side with pictures of Ming's wife.
Ming taking the old photos out of storage has another symbolic meaning. In the past, he stashed away Liam's pictures in a container and kept them out of sight. It is similar to how he repressed his sexuality throughout his life. However, Ming is now ready to be honest with himself. He can acknowledge Liam's existence and doesn't have to hide his lover's pictures in shame. Ming has overcome his insecurities, breaking down the self-imposed walls around his attraction to men. The No Law, No Heaven ending highlights Ming's newfound confidence about himself.
The movie's ending is sad because Ming lived many years without pursuing his dreams and desires. The poor guy couldn't choose who he loved, where he lived, and what his career would be. If circumstances were different, maybe Ming would've lived happily ever after with his boyfriend. Yet, there is still hope. Although his enlightenment may come late, Old Ming feels more self-assured in the final scene. After many decades of repressing himself, the psychological walls are finally coming down. Our protagonist seems at peace and can live as freely as he wishes.
No Law No Heaven Movie
No Law No Heaven Information
No Law, No Heaven is a Hong Kong movie that released at an American film festival in May 17, 2021. It is a short film, which you can finish in around 24 minutes. Kristi Hoi is the movie director.
No Law, No Heaven won the bronze award at the 2021 Student Academy Awards. It also received a BAFTA Student Film nomination.
Kristi Hoi (許善棋) is an American director. She filmed the 2021 Hong Kong short movie No Law, No Heaven. Her student film won an award at The 2021 Student Academy Awards.