A Chinese man named Cheng (Pak Hon Chu) arrives in a small town in Finland with his son, Nunji (Lucas Hsuan). The two come to a cafe where they eat and take a rest. It is quickly revealed that Cheng is looking for someone, asking the customers in the diner if they can point him in the right direction. Sadly no one seems to be familiar with man Cheng is seeking.
But while hanging around the diner and continually asking questions of the customers, Cheng notices the restaurant seems to serve the same meal over and over of sausages, mashed potatoes and salad. He soon sees an opportunity to assist the diner’s owner, Sirkka (Anna-Maija Tuokko). Cheng offers to cook new meals for the restaurant while teaching Sirkka how to cook Chinese meals. Cheng is a firm believer that food can bring joy, happiness and even healing to the body. In return, Sirkka offers her assistance in finding the man that Cheng is seeking and free accommodation.
Cheng is beginning to bring a new light of hope to this small town, but there are still many mysteries which he generally keeps to himself. Who is this man he is seeking? And does he have a wife?
The introduction to this film is tremendous. We see a simple introduction to Cheng and his son, which is very useful. Nothing here feels forced, and, for the most part, the film set up is unpredictable, including when it comes to any possible romances that may occur. It’s soon evident that Cheng is a kind-hearted man who, at times, is slightly awkward with his son, Nunji, and struggles to connect with him. I also enjoyed the mysteries set up in this introduction. For instance, why is Cheng so eager to find a man that no one seems to have heard of.
As a film, Master Cheng is beautifully shot. I enjoyed seeing some of the creative landscape shots in this film, and overall the style is excellent with no complaints about the looks of this film. The musical score, for the most part, is also pleasing and fitting with the tone of the movie.
As far as the plot, I enjoyed this film on so many levels, and it’s obvious the vision of this film was to tell a slow-paced story with a romance which begins from scratch. While I genuinely love this concept and the film’s ideas, I can’t deny that I felt the film’s runtime. In my opinion, there are moments which seem to overstay their welcome, and some scenes could have been trimmed to deliver the same message and story. This is more of personal opinion, but it’s one major element that held the film back in regards to pace and story.
Overall, Master Cheng is a touching drama, and to my surprise, it contains romance with an added ingredient of mystery and light-hearted comedy. It’s a story which will leave the audience feeling good. It’s beautifully filmed, showcasing stunning landscapes and has a touching musical score. This is a film which can be viewed for date night or with the whole family even though the film’s runtime needed a good trim and edit.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden