Hong Kong-based film director Simon Chung’s I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU (2018) riveted me from start to finish. Other than some early scenes set in Australia, the film takes place in Hong Kong. The narrative moves gracefully between flashbacks in secondary school and the present time, about eleven years later, of two best friends, Kevin Fong (Jun Li) and Jamie (Bryant Mak). Impressive acting and writing carries this tension-filled story along to an emotion-laden ending that left me feeling tired but relieved.
Kevin has long been in love with his best friend Jamie. He suffers from major depression to the point of him requiring psychiatric care at a residential facility. After Kevin leaves there, he and Jamie resume contact in Hong Kong. Thus begins a fraught process of reconnection between them, complicated by Jamie having a live-in girlfriend (Candy Cheung).
The film-work is purposefully uneven, juxtaposing harsh outdoor street lighting and claustrophobic indoor scenes with expansive and pleasant outside settings among trees and sky. I found myself longing for more of the latter, which intuitively made sense as the two main characters struggle to broaden and deepen their constricted lives. I the viewer felt effectively drawn into both their inner and outer emotional and sensory worlds.
Obviously and touchingly, this is a movie about the pursuit of true love between two men, one being the pursuer while the other is the avoider, made all the more complicated by the gay “taboo” element. But, on another level, this is a deeply moving screenplay about the challenge to reach a more genuine, meaningful state of existence. And that is what makes I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU so humanly relatable, regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation.