Autumn’s Tale, An (1987)

Chow Yun-Fat and Cherie Chung sparkle in Mabel Cheung’s earnest and easy-going romance, shot in the grimy streets of New York.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Mabel Cheung
1987 | Hong Kong | Drama/Romance | 98 mins | 1.85:1 | Cantonese, Japanese & English
PG13 (Netflix rating)

Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Cherie Cheung, Danny Chan, Gigi Wong
Plot: A naive young woman from Hong Kong goes to New York to study as her streetwise cousin takes care of her in the big city.
Awards: Won Best Leading Actor & Nom. for 5 Golden Horses – Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Source: Fortune Star

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style:  Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

My second film from Mabel Cheung after the historical epic that was The Soong Sisters (1997), An Autumn’s Tale is far more modest in intent.

It centers on Jennifer (Cherie Chung), a young woman from Hong Kong who moves to New York to continue her studies, though significantly, she is also there to reunite with her boyfriend. 

Her streetwise cousin, Samuel (Chow Yun-Fat), picks her up from the airport and provides her with a makeshift apartment to stay in. 

Shot in the grimy streets of New York, Cheung’s work, which is part of her ‘Migration’ trilogy that includes The Illegal Immigrant (1985) and Eight Taels of Gold (1989), captures what it must have felt like to live there in the late ‘80s, from the point-of-view of an Asian encountering for the first time the famous city that never sleeps, warts and all. 

“Remember what Woody Allen said? A relationship is like a shark. It has to move constantly or it dies.”

Both Chow and Chung sparkle in their roles and their earnest chemistry makes the movie tick.  Chow’s performance is particularly noteworthy, portraying his character with a tough-talking and sometimes aggressive persona (well, one needs it to survive any rumble in the Bronx), but deep down, he is a sensitive guy at heart, who feels he has fallen in love with his cousin. 

Cheung’s easy-going direction makes it all palatable to take in.  Despite its ‘migration’ theme, An Autumn’s Tale doesn’t really go deep, nor does it explore cultural differences explicitly as compared to, say, Lee Ang’s Pushing Hands (1991)or The Wedding Banquet (1993). 

Still, if you fancy an Asian romance set halfway across the world in a foreign land, Cheung’s work remains one of the more notable efforts of the time.

Grade: B+


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