‘Better Days’

Shot predominantly at night time or within the confines of a claustrophobic school environment, the Oscar-nominated Better Days provides a visceral insight into global issues affecting modern urban China.

Coping with the intense pressures of the forthcoming gaokao school exams is one thing but for Chen Nian (an extraordinarily nuanced Dongyu Zhou – Soulmate, Us and Them), bullying is a far more immediate threat. With an absent mother selling contraband cosmetics on the black market, Chen Nian is the perfect target for the wealthy and spoiled Wei Lai (Ye Zhou – 1921, Railway Heroes) and her cronies. With a schoolfriend having already committed suicide, fate throws Chen Nin to making a pact with the shady small-time criminal Xiao Bei (Jackson Yee – The Battle of Lake Chanjin, Forward Forever).

In the pressure-cooker atmopshere of the Chinese education system, Better Days, directed by Derek Tsang (Soulmate, Lacuna) and adapted from the YA novel by Jiu Yuexi, is a gripping melodrama with an unexpected intensity in its exploration of its themes.

A huge box office success in China due to the casting of pop star Jackson Yee, Better Days became, in 2021, only the third Hong Kong film in history to achieve an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.

Rating: 77%