• Charlie Vogelsang

Drifting (2021) Review

Premiering in the UK at the Chinese Visual Festival, Drifting follows a homeless nomad struggling against an uncaring government and an antagonistic police force.

Jun Li has already set a high standard of filmmaking with his debut drama Tracey, which focused on a trans person coming out at 50 and their struggles in society. This time around, he’s decided to tackle homelessness in Hong Kong with his latest drama, Drifting.

The film opens up with Fai, played by Francis Ng, being released from prison and refusing a half-way house. After he leaves the prison, dystopian music plays throughout to show that the real world outside is a scarier and more unknown place. The music projects an eerie and almost tragic quality that sets the tone for utter despair throughout.

Within the first 15 minutes of the film, Fai already has his residence wrecked as the police clean up all of the homeless people’s stuff. We see that these homeless people have no rights according to the authorities and are seen as trash themselves. They can’t even seek justice, despite this being illegal as they are already vagabonds with the law.

Drifting shows that homeless people aren’t lazy or evil people; they have just been hurt and forgotten. Fai left society because his son died and he takes heroin to forget the pain of losing his family. Throughout the film, he tries to improve his situation by fighting against the Government and trying to fight his drug addiction.

The homeless residents fighting back against the cruel government

Honestly, the dialogue, acting, cinematography and overall sound editing is absolutely brilliant. There are hilarious, witty moments and heartbreakingly sad scenes that leave you thinking even after the film ends. Drifting shows homeless people as humans with different emotions that are all guided by their tragic pasts.

Despite the entire cast being phenomenal, the two stand out stars have to be Francis Ng and Will Or, who plays Muk. They have a father-son bond that delivers some of the best moments of the film, such as when Muk steals some comfortable shoes to deal with Fai’s foot injury or when Fai ensures that Muk gets to experience being intimate with a woman.

The atmosphere of Drifting varies from tragic to hilarious to uplifting at times, and shows Jun Li as someone who understands how to deliver to his audience. Drifting shows how vulnerable people are treated by society in Hong Kong without pushing it too much in your face and forgetting about the actual emotional beats at the heart of the film.

By the end credits, you’ll be left feeling a mixture of sadness and frustration over the reality for these people. As previously mentioned, there are moments of hope and happiness, but they are long gone in the end. For a harrowing drama film with a huge spectrum of emotions, definitely check out Drifting. The end of the film will leave you haunted for a long while afterwards.


Watch the UK premiere of Drifting at the Chinese Visual Festival.