TIFF14 REVIEW: Sanlúnche fu [Tricycle Thief] [2014]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 12 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Macao)
Studio: Pontus Maximus Productions
Director(s): Maxim Bessmertnyi
Writer(s): Maxim Bessmertnyi

“Patience. Everything is fine.”

With a title like Sanlúnche fu [Tricycle Thief], Maxim Bessmertnyi‘s film could go two ways. Is it about someone who steals a tricycle or about a thief that rides one? There is also a third option: a hybrid of both. This is the direction the writer/director chooses with his Macau-set tale of a desperate man about to be evicted from his home. He lives in a city rich and vibrant with mainlanders coming in all the time to win big and leave with smiles on their faces, but for residents on the poverty line like he such success is nothing more than a pipe dream. Rather than sit back and let bad luck pile up, Ah Leong (Sam Leung) decides to take matters into his own hands.

The evening didn’t start out this way, though. In fact, Ah Leong was in great spirits riding his tricycle taxi home to his wife (Chu Wing Mui) with dinner. It’s only when he sits to read the mail while she and some friends play Mahjong that the night turns sour. Clueless as to what to do about the eviction notice, he leaves for the casino. Maybe he’ll play, maybe he’ll wait for a rich fare, or perhaps he simply wants to wallow in silence as his coworkers play chess on break. It isn’t until a nicely dressed gentleman saunters over asking for a ride that Ah Leong bursts into action. Rather than accept the tricycle drivers’ “No, go hail a taxi”, Charles Ho (Aeson Lei) takes the one on the end (Ah Leong’s) and drives away.

You’d assume what follows will be a run-of-the-mill chase through Macau of Ah Leong retrieving his only means of salary at a time when he cannot support his family, but all that gets rectified rather quickly. The two men are therefore left together in a situation that’s completely up in the air. It’s the good-natured stranger versus the tired citizen with a briefcase potentially housing the answer to Ah Leong’s prayers between them. Bessmertnyi isn’t interested in happily ever after or just deserts, though. He instead wishes to simultaneously show humanity’s flaws and grace when one’s back is against the wall. To him the contents of the case are inconsequential. It’s what Ah Leong is willing to do that matters as victims turn to thieves, thieves to victims, and unexplained actions remain mysteries.

courtesy of TIFF

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