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Soursweet (1988)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

In a rural village on the outskirts of Hong Kong, Chen and Lily, the daughter of the village martial arts elder, are getting married in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony. During the wedding banquet, Chen announces, to the delight of his friends and family, that he has gained British citizenship. Lily is overjoyed and together the couple relocate to England with Lily's sister Mui.

The couple live in a small flat near London's Chinatown. Chen works as a waiter in a local Chinese restaurant, where he befriends a younger waiter, Fok, who has dealings with the Chinese Triads. Lily works as a cleaner for a wealthy Chinese lady, Mrs. Law, while Mui stays home to look after Chen and Lily's young son Man Kee. The young family seems content until Lily starts suggesting to Chen that they should follow Mrs. Law's advice and start their own business. Chen is reluctant and wants to settle down as he is; he is content with his life and not ambitious.

The Chinese Triads are under threat from a new Triad organisation consisting of Vietnamese and other Chinese diaspora factions. Violence erupts between the warring sides over money and territory. Fok falls in with the Chinese Triads and leads Chen astray by taking him to a gambling den, where Chen loses all his earnings. It is a loss Chen cannot afford, as he had hoped to make enough money to repay his father's gambling debts in Hong Kong.

Chen is distraught at his predicament and seeks advice from Fok. Fok suggests that Chen helps the Chinese Triads by acting as a heroin runner to Sheffield every week. In return his debts will be covered. Chen agrees to this at first but then changes his mind as he is terrified of becoming a member of the Chinese Triads. Nevertheless he does not reveal his problems to Lily. Instead he decides to escape his agreement and the Triads by finding an abandoned shop in a discreet location south of London, where he plans to start a Chinese take-away business together with Lily.

Lily is overjoyed, but when she arrives at the take-away and discovers its remote location and how much work is required, she is less pleased. She remains optimistic and together they manage to renovate and turn the shop into a presentable Chinese take-away, making friends with their English neighbours along the way.

Chen is committed to his work and the business thrives. Man Kee starts school and is bullied. Lily teaches him how to defend himself using martial arts. Meanwhile violence between the Triads escalates. The heroin run falls apart and Fok blames Chen for the loss in money, which Fok has pocketed himself. The Chinese Triad leaders decide to go after Chen and kill him.

Chen's father arrives from Hong Kong to live with them. He attempts to befriend the local elderly English population, offering them the finest workmanship on their coffins, much to their disapproval. Mui has an affair with a Belgian lorry driver, who had been a customer at the take-away. She becomes pregnant and has a baby daughter.

Chen is caught and murdered by the triads. However the leaders then realise he was not to blame and also find out about Lily's father and his status in Hong Kong. Fearing reprisals from Hong Kong, they send Lily money postmarked from Chen. Thinking that Chen is working abroad to finance their family, Lily is happy when she receives an envelope from Amsterdam containing money. She settles in her successful business, looking after her elderly father-in-law and raising Man Kee, hopeful that Chen will be returning soon. Mui leaves Lily's business to start a new life and marriage with a former work mate of Chen, with her daughter. They plan to open a fish and chip shop.