Hong Kong

Review: “In Broad Daylight” Shows Bleak State of Hong Kong Journalism and Care Homes

Lawrence Kan’s “In Broad Daylight” examines the heavy burden that comes with pursuing truth and justice amidst Hong Kong’s declining press freedom and growing aging population.

By , 11 Jul 23 05:41 GMT
Courtesy of One Cool Film Production Limited.

Inspired by true events, Lawrence Kan’s film In Broad Daylight navigates social decay with hard-hitting candor. The film follows an ace investigative reporter named Kay (Jennifer Yu), who investigates alleged abuse in a care home by posing as a patient’s daughter. While Kay begins her investigation for selfish reasons, she soon grows attached to the patients and learns that telling the truth comes with a price. In Broad Daylight effectively conveys its heavy themes, especially through heartbreaking and raw performances from Rachel Leung and David Liang as supporting characters.

With great power, comes great responsibility

Courtesy of One Cool Film Production Limited.

According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), Hong Kong’s press freedom index has been sinking for the past four years. Even before the National Security Law’s (NSL) implementation in 2020, Hong Kong journalism was already in dire straits; the law exacerbated its decline. Various outlets have shut down, with numerous executives and editors facing prosecution. Beyond legal constraints, journalists on the beat face high pressure, low pay, and long working hours

In Broad Daylight does a fine job of showing this depressing state of affairs. Throughout the film, Kay and her colleagues ponder if journalism will still exist. Kay is one of her paper’s four remaining investigative reporters, and they’re all at risk of losing their jobs without scoring a big scoop. The movie’s contrast between a disillusioned Kay and her more idealistic and junior colleague Jess especially highlights how the vagaries of Hong Kong journalism have worn veterans down. 

What’s more is how In Broad Daylight shows how perhaps Hong Kong society no longer values the social impact of journalists. Though Kay begins to gain empathy for elder care abuse victims and see beyond her disillusionment, the film shows how the legal system and other societal stakeholders discount her reporting and scapegoat her. It’s bittersweet—and perhaps all too real—how In Broad Daylight shows how powerless journalism is at making change in Hong Kong today. 

A failed system puts a heavier burden

Courtesy of One Cool Film Production Limited.

Given its basis in real events, In Broad Daylight itself seems to embody the same social consciousness as its characters. With the film, director Kan aptly mirrors the real situation of Hong Kong’s elderly and disabled. Hong Kong is already facing a severe shortage of care residences, and the problem will get even worse with Hong Kong set to become the world’s oldest society by 2050

With public care homes running short, Hong Kong families often turn to private care homes that are cramped, understaffed, and left unsupervised. Elderly and disabled people of differing needs are lumped together, with no proper care. In Broad Daylight doesn’t hold back in highlighting the problems that exist in Hong Kong’s care home system—it shows residents stripped down naked in a rooftop for bathing, getting beaten or tied when they resist, and dying without getting reported. The film further notes how Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department is aware of such abuses, but classifies them as “isolated cases” rather than investigating systemic patterns of abuse. 

Especially with many Hong Kong families emigrating elsewhere following the National Security Law’s promulgation, many elderly are left behind both literally and figuratively. The families that remain often can’t spend much time with older relatives given long work hours and high living costs.  Kay also learns how while some residents appreciate having a roof over their heads, they also lament losing their freedom, trapped as they slowly die in isolation. “Death is normal here,” a resident tells Kay, as if mirroring the decay in Hong Kong’s society at large.

Ultimately, Lawrence Kan communicates a bittersweet and bleak message with In Broad Daylight. The film shows issues that Hong Kong society easily dismisses, and a system that fails its most disadvantaged. Perhaps most jarringly of all, it shows that those—like Kay—who try to expose such truths, may themselves be in peril.

• • •

In Broad Daylight (Cantonese: 白日之下)—Hong Kong. Dialog in Cantonese. Directed by Lawrence Kan. First released June 11, 2023. Running time 2hr. Starring Jennifer Yu, David Chiang, Chung-Hang Leung, Bowie Lam, and Rachel Leung.

This article is part of Cinema Escapist‘s dedicated coverage of the 2023 New York Asian Film Festival.

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