Master Cheng: A Non-Spoiler Review

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Poster for the film Master Cheng (2019)

🇫🇮 🇨🇳 MASTER CHENG 🇨🇳 🇫🇮

Master Cheng (2019) is a Finno-Chinese romcom/drama feature film available on BBC iPlayer. 1 hour 54 minutes in length and rated PG. It is in Finnish, Mandarin and English with embedded English-language subtitles.


“Following the death of his wife, professional chef Cheng travels with his young son to a remote village in Finland to connect with an old Finnish friend he once met in Shanghai.” IMDb


Pak Hon Chu as Cheng
Anna-Maija Tuokko as Sirkka
Lucas Hsuan as Nui Nui
Kari Väänänen as Romppainen
Vesa-Matti Loiri as Vilppula
Paula Miettinen as Mervi


Writer: Hannu Oravisto
Director: Mika Kaurismäki
Composer: Anssi Tikanmäki
Cinematographer: Jari Mutikainen
Editor: Tuuli Kuittinen
Production Designer: Maria Hulkkonen
Costume Designer: Anna Vilppunen


Vesa-Matti Loiri passed away in 2022 at the age of 77.

Pak Hon Chu is an award-winning and nominated Chinese actor.


Raattama, Kittilä, Finland
Sodankylä, Finland
Levi, Kittilä, Finland
Hangzhou, China
Ylläs, Finland
Muonio, Finland


There are films you watch that just leave you with a lovely toasty warm feeling inside, Master Cheng is one of those films. Food for the soul. If however, you are looking for a film that has lots of action and thrills this is not that film.

One of the flaws of this film could be seen as it being quite predictable in many ways and that it isn’t particularly challenging or gritty — for me, these were part of its strengths and not weaknesses.

As a character-driven romantic comedy, I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching it. It is often visually stunning — the landscapes are beautiful and the direction and cinematography make full use of these. I loved that the location is another character. The music enhances the whole atmosphere, perfectly.

Talking of music I must mention a fantastic scene on a motorised raft with all the old guys and Master Cheng chugging down the booze and singing. First the traditional Finnish song and then a beautiful Chinese song (what a voice!) both accompanied by the piano accordion. That latter song made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Stunning!

There are other scenes too which I loved, including in the sauna, the drinking, the skinny dipping in the lake, the drinking, the sauna, the drinking… If I had to choose one other scene that I thought was outstanding it would be where Cheng is doing his Tai Chi on the grass as the sun is setting. This scene is a thing of true beauty. There were other scenes which made me laugh, a lot!

The central performances of both male and female lead are both excellent (especially as neither are speaking to the other in their mother tongue) and they have great chemistry. The young actor playing Cheng’s little boy is great and really captures that stroppy kid who won’t get off playing games on his phone thing.

The supporting cast, especially the Finnish old boys, are really good and I warmed to them and the way in which their relationship with Cheng evolved. This could be seen as a “clash of cultures” film but to me, that whole use of the word “clash” suggests conflict and possible negativity and, honestly, that’s not what you get here. I appreciated the fact that although these men do have some stereotypical traits there’s much about them that breaks that.

Both Cheng and Sirkka are heartbroken people at the start of the story (his son is too) and I saw this film as being more about healing and the power of love than any kind of “clash”. Health and hope are mentioned in connection with cooking the food but they are also two main themes. That love can heal broken people and give them hope for the future is a worthwhile message and I don’t care how many times I have heard it before. Love knows no boundaries.

I haven’t mentioned one of the main stars of this film yet, and that is THE FOOD. Oh goodness me, the food! From the frankly repulsive-looking mashed potatoes and sausages (Cheng must have been VERY hungry to eat that!) to the elegantly, nay beautifully presented Chinese dishes. Watching the preparations and listening to the philosophy behind Cheng’s cooking was fabulous. I would love to eat that perch soup and the herby reindeer!

I even enjoyed the cheesy bits in this film, of which there are a few. This is, at least in part because it has heart and honesty about it all.

If you want to watch a truly heartwarming story which is beautifully filmed in stunning locations and with characters you can be invested in, then this is the film for you. I loved it! Just don’t watch it if you are hungry!


1 Win LĂĽbeck Nordic Film Days, 2019, Audience Prize of the LĂĽbecker Nachtrichen ~ Best Film


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