Given recent events, Angels Wear White couldn’t be more timely. Vivian Qu’s latest is an uncannily prescient depiction of the enormous cover-up of child sexual assault and the bravery it takes to be the first to speak out.
Angels is a damning indictment of many different aspects of society – not just the perpetrators and child abusers nor the negligent state, but of the bystanders whose silence renders them knowingly complicit in these crimes. It is morally complex and sometimes a difficult watch – surely both evidence of why it was selected for the London Film Festival Official Competition.
Narrated from a variety of perspectives, Angels has a number of standout characters in its nearly all-female cast. In each woman is the painful familiarity with what has happened, so internalised it no longer surprises them. Undocumented migrant worker Mia (Wen Qi) plays the role of witness and detective; the footage of the incident she records on her phone is vital to the case but the precariousness of her situation holds her back from using it. Lawyer Hao (Shi Kei) knows this all too well – she has worked on “many of this sort of case”.
As a coming-of-age story, Angels’ nuanced characterisation carefully balances the young victims’ perspectives of innocence and Mia’s perspective of maturity with the darkness of the corrupted adult world. The film’s resolution rests on one sole act of selflessness, and its final shot is full of hope. Award for the most galvanizing film of 2017 goes to Angels Wear White.
Heartbreaking and rousing in equal measure, it is simply not possible to watch without feeling incentivised to act. A film that lingers in the mind, Angels Wear White comes from a place of deep frustration and disillusionment. We loved every moment of it.
CAST: Le Geng, Mengnan Li, Weiwei Liu, Zhou Meijun
DIRECTOR: Vivian Qu
WRITER: Vivian Qu
SYNOPSIS: In a small seaside town, two schoolgirls are assaulted by a middle-aged man in a motel. Mia, a teenager who was working on reception that night, is the only witness.