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All Shall Be Well: Berlin Review

Patra Au Ga Man looks worried in the middle of the street in a scene from All Shall Be Well

From the 74th Berlin Film Festival All Shall Be Well is a soft and yet not any less heartbreaking portrayal of grief, family, and love.

Directed by Ray Yeung, All Shall Be Well is a Hong Kong drama premiering at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. The director, who also serves as a screenwriter in this movie, is known for films that often feature gay stories at their core. Five years after his previous film, Suk Suk, which was also selected to compete at the 70th Berlinale, this one too does not disappoint and touches on the themes and subject matters dear to the director.

All Shall Be Well Angie (Patra Au) and Pat (Maggie Li Lin Lin), a well-off lesbian couple in their 60s who have been together for the past 30 years, living in Pat’s flat in Hong Kong. Friends and family seem to respect and look up to their relationship as we see them organise the mid-Autumn celebration for their loved ones. But for Angie, everything comes crumbling down when Pat suddenly passes away one night. Despite the initial support from Pat’s family, questions of inheritance and the absence of a will cause a drift between them as they fail to recognise Angie’s role and importance in Pat’s life.

The portrayal of grief is powerful and yet soft in All Shall Be Well. Just like Angie is reminded of Pat during the entire film, the audience is reminded of this loss through small important details in almost every scene. It is evident how quiet, cold, and lonely their apartment feels now that Pat is gone in every scene as the movie progresses. It is not one monumental event that conveys Angie’s grief but, rather, a series of small everyday moments that portray the full scope of her loss. The film’s cinematography and camerawork also make it particularly stand out: the lighting in particular is often used to convey the sense of pain and loss that defines the film.

But Angie is not alone in her grief: while Pat’s family may have abandoned her, she has people in her life who support her no matter what. The same people who are willing to fight for her rights, even when she starts doubting them herself as she faces legal matters that don’t recognise her relationship. All Shall Be Well poignantly shows us the value of this found family Angie created for herself, reminding us that maybe blood is not thicker than water. It is also in many ways a journey of self-discovery for Angie who finds herself fighting to uphold Pat’s wishes and legacy as much as her own.

Patra Au Ga Man stands at the dinner table in a still from All Shall Be Well
Patra Au Ga Man stands at the dinner table in a still from All Shall Be Well, now at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. (© Mise en Scene filmproduction / Berlinale)

All Shall Be Well is also a powerful commentary on acceptance. Angie does not only have to live with her grief but also with the fact that the world does not recognise their relationship, but – the film seems to ask us – why should Angie’s place in her partner’s life matter any less just because they weren’t married, or she wasn’t part of Pat’s family by blood? In a world where the rights and legitimacy of LGBT couples are constantly questioned and under scrutiny, All Shall Be Well is a very timely film that reminds us of how these questions and legislation affect real people in their daily lives, despite only seeming theoretical at times.

Despite being from a children’s book, I have always found Lemony Snicket’s quote about the death of a loved one of the best description of what grief feels like in day-to-day life: “It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” If there is a film that could capture this same feeling of this mundane and yet world-shattering grief, it is this one. All Shall Be Well will break your heart for its entire 90-minute runtime, but by the end of it, we realise it is all worth it.

All Shall Be Well premiered at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. Read our Berlin Film Festival reviews and our list of 20 films to watch at the Berlin Film Festival!

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