Directed by: #SamQuah
Desperate measures are taken by a man who tries to save his family from the dark side of the law, after they commit an unexpected crime.
Sheep Without a Shepherd follows a family man who discovers his daughter has committed a murder in self-defence and must protect her and the family from serious consequences. Sam Quah’s remake of Jeethu Joseph’s Indian Malayalam film Drishyam takes the liberty of refitting the original story for a Chinese audience, in a new setting.
An engrossing film from the outset, Sheep Without a Shepherd speeds along through its almost 2 hour runtime at a break-neck pace (with sprinkled-in moments for a breather). Sporting a fairly dark colour grade that progressively darkens as the film weaves through its narrow and twisted web of a story, it’s a thankfully entertaining thrill ride that throws us on a bumpy journey with the titular character’s family, though arriving at an underwhelming final stop.
Writing the family as a smart, more cool-headed bunch is quite fun to watch. They step around lies and instead remember every detail of the night the crime was committed, in an effort to only tell the truth, threaded within conspiracy. Joan Chen is a triumph. She’s so effortlessly badass even when still; it’s something I promptly noticed in Netflix’s Marco Polo, so it was pleasant to see her in this film. This is very much an ensemble movie, so the entire cast shines, especially Yang Xiao in his subtle role. The way the story unravels the string of misdirection is as you’d expect; big heads in the police force on the tail, fast-paced scenes of bodies flicking through CCTV and gaining intel, the usual. But everyone does a solid job with the material, even if it’s a little predictable.
The sound and music is clean and sharp; some scenes including hard-hitting punches are, well, hard-hitting and attack the ears with power. A Hollywood-esque score from Cho Hye Won highlights some of the film’s pivotal moments and reflects the action and emotions coming from the performances on-screen. There are the expected high-octane cues for fight sequences, but a more downplayed tone of suspense and mystery lay underneath. A piercing sound mix makes for a much more exciting experience, so to pair that with a strong cast is a real treat.
Sheep Without a Shepherd is a stunningly crafted Chinese film. It’s unfortunate that the climax be as ill-rewarding as it is, but you can’t deny the strength in its characters and the journey they take us on, even if the destination wasn’t as hoped. I have not seen the original film this was adapted from, so I cannot compare, but I wonder if it was better handled with Jeethu Joseph’s direction. It’s a cat and mouse chase, and like most, the mouse is caught. It’s the “how” that intrigues us the most, and Sheep Without a Shepherd plays with that concept well.
Trinity CineAsia presents Sheep Without A Shepherd released in virtual cinemas and screening as part of Chinese Cinema Season from 12th April.