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Master Cheng


Stars: Chu Pak Hong, Anna-Maia Tuokko, Lucas Hsian

Director: Mika Kaurismaki

This charming if quite leisurely film opens with the arrival in a remote Finnish village of Cheng (Hong) a taciturn Chinese man in his late thirties from Shanghai, and his young son Niu Niu (Hsian). They arrive at Sirkka's Bar, where the only food for the locals is Finnish sausage and mashed potato.

Cheng is looking for 'Mister Fongtron' whom he has come to find to pay a debt of gratitude for helping him out when he needed it most. Fongtron, a name which baffles the diner regulars, eventually turns out to be something of a mistranslation, but Sirkka (Tuokko), also in her late thirties, who inherited the cafe from her aunt and barely knows how to cook, offers him accommodation while he searches for Fongtron.

She's at a loss when a big group of Chinese tourists comes to the diner and turns its noses up at the fare, but Cheng comes to the rescue by running up delicious bowls of Chinese chicken noodles for everyone. Sirkka's business booms, and the locals take to Chinese food - especially with its so-called 'healing' qualities, as it turns out Cheng was a chef in Shanghai and ran his own restaurant.

Not much else happens, apart from Niu Niu getting lost in the surrounding woods chasing reindeer, and police pursuing Cheng as his visa nears expiry. But there's a lovely sequence near the end as locals take Cheng on a fishing/drinking expedition to sort things out, and each sings songs of home as they drift at twilight in the middle of a glacial lake.

Of course, we can all see where this is going, but the journey there is filled with warm characters, and cool, picturesque scenery, magnificently shot in widescreen. In English, Finnish and Mandarin with subtitles.

David Quinlan

Finland/China 2019. UK Distributor: Parkland Entertainment. Colour (unspecified).
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Mar 2022