‘Still Human’ review: Heartfelt and engaging domestic help dramedy

Still Human beautifully gives us a heartwarming story that will make us cry with its engagingly relatable drama .

Still Human is about a paralyzed man and his Filipino domestic worker who learn about each other as they go on their lives in Hong Kong. Former construction worker Leung Cheong-wing (Anthony Wong) who is paralyzed from the chest down is left to spend his days contemplating his existence in a cramped public housing estate flat. That changes when his friend, Fai (Sam Lee Chan-sum), finds him a new domestic helper after a series of unsatisfactory hires. Despite starting off with a language barrier and a mutual distrust, Cheong-wing and his new recruit maid, Evelyn Santos (Crisel Consunji), a former nurse, soon develop a great fondness for each other. These two strangers live under the same roof through different seasons, and as they learn more about each other, they also learn more about themselves. Together, they learn about how to face the different seasons of life.

The story is straightforward and it shows how two strangers can help achieving their dreams along the way. The trailer didn’t reveal much but it’s all about sacrifices, family, dreams and a heartfelt domestic help story. The film would really capture the hearts of both Filipino workers and Hong Kong employers. Evelyn is an aspiring photographer who has temporarily given up her dreams and to work as a maid to a grumpy Cheong-wing. While the story of a domestic helper and her employer grounds the film in a real-world context, the story and characters are no less relatable for audiences unfamiliar with live-in helpers. Most importantly, the film does not portray Evelyn or Cheong as pitiful — instead, it gives both of them a base of empowerment from which they can choose their own destinies, and escape the limitations that social, economic, and physical circumstances have imposed on them.

At first you’ll feel that Evelyn and Cheong are two strangers who both have different aspects in life. But halfway through the film as Cheong discovers Evelyn’s dream to become a photographer and dream to become something more than just being a maid. Cheong’s attitude towards her starts to take a turn, he even stands up to his sister when she makes a racist remark at Evelyn making the film more relatable and heartwarming. Both of them have dreams that they feel unable to pursue because of different conditions in their lives. Evelyn’s arrival convinces Cheong to start turning his life around. This takes turns as they are not totally different at each other at all.

Still Human shows that gaps in language, culture, gender, age, or social status are not hindrances to form a connection with someone else. Regardless of one’s background or societal standing — a helper or a disabled man — we are all still human. The film humanizes and gives a voice to not only helpers and the disabled, but also people from all walks of life who are often overlooked, dismissed, and stereotyped by society at large. This is a big move to a debuting director. It was great showing this hoping a wide audience might see this film.

The film is sincere and meaningful with a dedicated director and performances of the leads. Director Oliver Siu Kuen Chan’s debut features a lot of genuinely heartwarming story. He amazingly creates a tearjerker film full of lessons in life – dreaming big and keeping on in life. Those lessons may be broad, but it maintains true all along the film.

Crisel Consunji had never acted in a film when she was chosen to star opposite Hong Kong cinematic legend Anthony Wong Chau-sang but she was no doubt the best choice for the role.  Crisel Consunji and Anthony Wong Chau-sang infuse discovered optimism into their respective characters’ adversities. Crisel owns the role as if she was really Evelyn by showing its fears and process them into emotive performance, you would never know she was not an equal veteran to Wong Chau-sang. She anchors this film with professionalism and light in a star-making performance. Both have great moments. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most important is that you’ll learn from their respective characters.

Still Human is a heartwarming story about the reality of life and dreaming big. It was engaging, dramatic, humorous, and sweet. Still Human is very timely and relatable film best seen by a wide audience.

5 out of 5 stars
Written and directed by Oliver Siu Kuen Chan, ‘Still Human’ stars Crisel Consunji, Sam Lee, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, and Cecilia Yip. 112 minutes

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