Ray Yeung is a director with various queer shorts and two features following the lives of young gay men under his belt, but his new film takes a slightly different angle. Twilight’s Kiss follows the story of two married gay men in their late 60s and 70s, and while the story feels reminiscent of other LGBTQ+ films, Yeung provides us a window into the particulars of the queer experience amid the Chinese traditions of Hong Kong after having been integrated into it for most of their lives. Tender, gentle and slow-moving in the way we have come to expect of South East Asian cinema, Twilight’s Kiss feels quiet and understated, but perhaps a little too so.
Pak (Tai-Bo), an elderly taxi driver reluctant to retire, meets Hoi (Ben Yuen), a likewise elderly single father with a strained relationship to his adult son, on a park bench nearby his granddaughter’s school. Though proud of the life he and his nuclear family have built through hardship, in Hoi he finds a compassion lacking elsewhere and the two begin to grow closer. As their relationship blossoms, Pak and Hoi find themselves increasingly conflicted as their closeted identities rise closer to the surface and to the potential notice of their families.
Older gay people are often side characters in LGBTQ+ stories, with sexuality often shown as something for the younger generations to discover. What’s interesting about Twilight’s Kiss is that it acknowledges the reality that many knowingly-gay individuals marry and continue to live in the cultural cannon of their society. Yeung explores here how Pak and Hoi’s identity become a potential weight on a family unit that leans heavily on the ‘man of the family’, but also how liberating the freedom of accepting one’s own identity can be.
More than the entanglement between the two protagonists, it’s the growing community of gay men Hoi introduces Pak to that’s at the heart of the film, as is becoming more common as we start to realise that sexuality is about more than who you sleep with and are attracted to – it’s also about the community built up to weather the prejudice surrounding sexuality and sexual identity. The sub plot of the social group, of which Hoi is a part of, trying to speak out and fund an old people’s home exclusively for the gay community feels like somewhat of an afterthought to the main plot, but one that pulls Hoi and Pak and in different directions and spurs on their actions.
Ultimately, the romance itself comes from seemingly nowhere and, while it doesn’t feel rushed, it doesn’t necessarily feel developed either. Tai-Bo and Ben Yuen give tender, thoughtful performances as the leads, but we see so much of their outer lives and relationships to their families (particularly their grandchildren) that the balance of conflict weighs heavier outside of their love; in his own way, Yeung shows us how much of a haven quiet moments with a loved one can be, even if it doesn’t integrate the narrative as well as the film deserves.
Though hard to fault, there’s a sense that more could have been achieved with the film. Twilight’s Kiss becomes a tender look into everyday homosexuality in Hong Kong, and who can belittle that? Perhaps it’s the un-intrusive gentleness that leaves the story unfinished to a Western gaze; it feels like the key has been put into the lock but left unturned, leaving the door into this story unopened for us.
Twilight’s Kiss is available on VOD from February 19th
by Daisy Leigh-Phippard
Daisy (she/her) studied film production at Arts University Bournemouth and freelances in the industry with the aspiration of becoming a director and screenwriter. A lover of independent and foreign film with female perspectives, her favourites include Pan’s Labyrinth, The Handmaiden, Frida and anything that has ever come out of Hayao Miyazaki’s brain. You can see her work on her website and follow her on Twitter, Letterboxd and Instagram.