Fantasia Festival 2020: Sheep Without a Shepherd (2019)

Sheep Without a Shepherd (2019)

sheep without a shepherd

Director: Sam Quah

Cast: Xiao Yang, Joan Chen, Audrey Hui, Tan Zhuo, Ming-Shuai Shih, Paul Chun

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. – IMDB

Sheep Without A Shepherd is Chinese thriller remake of Malayalam film, Drishyam. Having not seen the source material, this is a standalone viewing for myself which works very well as a whole. The concept of having an every day joe be caught in a situation to use his own detective and thriller film enthusiast knowledge to protect his family and create their own alibi in some ways have been seen before but the execution of this film is done incredibly well and the thriller itself is gripping and intense as it builds to the finale where its questionable whether he will get away with his plan and the little details that is done off-screen in the twist.

Sheep Without a Shepherd also hones a stellar cast. With a supporting role as a neighbor and family friend by Paul Chun and Philip Keung plays the politician father of Suchat who is the boy that was accidentally killed, two actors of different calibre in Hong Kong but very much veterans of the Asian film industry, the latter having made quite the appearances in the recent decade in a lot of films of this genre. Joan Chen has a much bigger role as the police chief Laoorn who happens to also be the mother of Suchat and has quite the presence as she starts from desperation to anger to despair which leads her to make some questionable choices. Playing opposite her is the father and husband protecting his family is Xiao Yang in the role of Weijie Li. He takes on a big role which is mostly subtle in nature as he keeps his cool while using his knowledge from films to create an alibi for the family. Finally, Taiwanese actor Ming-Shuai Shih plays the hotheaded cop Sangkun who in others hands would be typically be over the top and yet, there’s something very strong of how he balances his character to be one that is more grounded and fitting to this corrupt/bad cop sort of character. In reality, each of these characters, whether the younger actresses playing the daughters to the main characters are written and played with a great balance and some depth to keep them moving the story along.

Sheep Without A Shepherd is a gripping story and its thanks to a tight-paced execution. Its watching both sides of the story parallel to each other from a desperate mother and the police station versus the family that needs to scramble to create their alibi and the mystery behind how their alibi works within the time frame that we know is incorrect. The audience knows partially what it is but the depth of the mystery dives a lot further and still manages to have some tricks to pull out. Because of the wrong that was done by Suchat and the layout of how the movie already shows the corrupt authority power in this Thailand area, it gives a blurry line between right and wrong. On one hand, its easy to back the father protecting his family and its successful in the audience siding with him and hoping that he and his family gets away with it because they are the weaker position in this whole situation and yet, accidental murder is still a crime so where do you draw the line, right? Talking more technical, Sheep Without a Shepherd also has some great visuals in the whole cinematography. It uses its camera to deliver the power roles and one of the most powerful scenes with Joan Chen towering over the young daughter makes her feel almost like a monster. There’s appropriate use of situation with how it films the rain and the gloomy shadow over each of these scenes.

Sheep With A Shepherd is a outstanding gripping thriller. It has a lot of tense moments between whether the family’s alibi with get them through and whether the other members of the family will all do their own part with the rushed training. At the same time, it clashes with the police side of the story which is portrayed in an unjust way where everything seems to be out of line. However, all this leads to a bigger element of societal issues of power, authority and leadership that gets brought into the story. There’s a lot of moving parts. Most of the time, its fairly subtle and there are a lot of details. Having the family’s main alibi being built on the knowledge and inspiration from South Korean thriller Montage and having constant movie mentions always gives its a little bit of a fun film buff twist as well. There’s a lot to love about Sheep Without a Shepherd whether its the thriller elements, the cinematography or the outstanding performances from its cast.