Chilli Laugh Story

闔家辣 | Chili Laugh Story
 •  ,  •   • Dir.

Reviewed by   |  Jun 19, 2024

2022 was a bumper year for Hong Kong films at the box office, with juggernauts like ‘Table for Six’ and ‘Warriors of the Future’ bringing in superb returns. Slightly below these, but still racking up exceptional support was debutant director Coba Cheng’s ‘Chilli Laugh Story’. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it has Edan Lui, from immensely popular Cantopop group ‘Mirror’ in the lead role.

Music student Coba, frustrated by his family’s quirks and constant bickering, tries to find a way to escape their tiny Hong Kong apartment. Salvation, though, comes from an unusual source/sauce; his mother’s homemade chilli oil mixture that gives people an almost religious experience. Sensing a business opportunity, Coba decides to sell the sauce online and it soon becomes a sensation, meaning the family now has to increase production massively. And working closely with his parents on this culinary sensation gives a rare insight into their relationship and just what they have sacrificed for him.

‘Chilli Laugh Story’ is pure Hong Kong, a comedy drama about those that would probably be forgotten about by other film industries. It’s full of admiration for the remarkable hodgepodge that makes Hong Kong special with the action taking place in cramped, old apartments which are then juxtaposed with glossy new structures popping up around the city. Its story is also something that is not only a common theme for local films, but can also be appreciated by every culture in the world, namely the chasm that occasionally develops between the generations. In this regard especially, ‘Chilli Laugh Story’ is a warm and enjoyable comedy that leaves a good impression by the time the end credits roll.

It feels strange to reach an age where Gigi Leung is playing the mother of an adult child, but here we are. Leung and Cheng work well as the protagonist’s eccentric parents; the latter starts off as vaguely annoying but has his own arc throughout the film. Add in the presence of Sandra Ng and this feels like a wistful and effective work with plenty of humour throughout (Ronald Cheng going to the bathroom after chopping hundreds of chillis is something I could definitely relate to!).

As with many films that have food as a central component, the scenes involving the blessed item are especially pleasing to the eye – that beautiful chilli concoction had my belly rumbling throughout. More vitally though, the strong theme of how parents and children often misunderstand each other translates well, giving it a universality that can be enjoyed no matter where you are in the world. I can understand why it would do well at the box office during COVID lockdown: it reminds us of the relationships that easily get strained over the years, but gives it a humorous twist. ‘Chilli Laugh Story’ is an unlikely New Year hit that deserves its success.

Latest posts by Andrew Saroch (see all)