Zero to Hero (2021) review – an inspiring journey of So Wa Wai

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 5, 2021
Netflix film Zero to Hero (2021)


Living to its title, Zero to Hero is a memorable, inspiring, and thought-provoking biopic tribute of So Wa Wai, Hongkong’s first Paralympic athlete who broke records and won several gold medals. Prepare your heart to break, mend, and be enlightened with genuine love and victorious smiles.

This review of the Netflix film Zero to Hero (2021) does not contain spoilers. 

It’s been two months since the Tokyo Paralympics 2021, but the momentum still vividly lingers throughout history. I remember one of the most iconic moments when several Paralympic athletes from Indonesia won a series of gold medals in the Tokyo Paralympic. It’s an overwhelming situation for everyone in the stadium as we hear “Indonesian Raya” play. Although their winning story makes it to the headline news, Paralympic athletes are still underappreciated by the public and media. People tend to focus more on their disability by turning it into a pity party rather than engaging their story as a whole valuable individual. Chi-Man Wan is here to give you a glimpse of the situation in the most charming way possible.

Zero to Hero is one of those movies that will leave you in awe. It’s an inspiring, emotional, and thought-provoking biopic tribute to So Wa Wai, Hongkong’s first Paralympic athlete that completed the Paralympic Games on five occasions and won a total of 12 medals. The movie is directed by Chi-Man Wan and produced by Sandra Ng. Living to its title, Zero to Hero is about a life-changing journey of So Wai Wai, a hemolytic jaundice survivor who successfully became a Paralympic athlete despite his cerebral palsy condition. It is also a heartwarming story of the never-ending love of a mother who goes the extra mile to raise her son from zero to hero. It starts with a solid cast, from Sandra Ng, Louis Cheung, to Leung Chung-hang. The movie is in Mandarin with English subtitles available.

Zero to Hero lasts for 1 hour 41 minutes. It’s pretty fast-paced and focuses more on the issues with a wide range of emotional dynamics. The conflict arises when Wai’s career as an athlete begins to rise. It turns out, your blood and sweat are not enough for you to become an athlete that is able to run in the race tracks. “Equal pay for equal work,” is one of the underlined dialogues in the movie. In reality, there’s a big gap between Olympian and Paralympic athletes. It’s ironic when both of them are athletes and pay the hard same hard work for the medal they earn and how they’re not supported enough by the country and receive their rights. Not only So Wa Wai, but we’re also witnessing the struggle and overwhelming story from other Paralympic athletes and how they’ll overcome their fears and boundaries, not only as an individual but as a team.

One of the most heartwrenching scenes is when the mother puts the little Wai in a machine that’s ready to crush him anytime due to her desperation due to his son’s condition. Rather than choosing the cliched way of portraying and presenting the story of disabled communities, it explores more to the depth of human nature and emotions. It also raises the family issues within the family with the disabled member. More importantly, the movie successfully captures and brings the disabled issues to light without making it preachy and glorifying their situation by turning it into a pity party. Everything is humane and unexpectedly refreshing with delicate humor and witty dialogues. Let’s give a round of applause for Leung Chung Hang who did a marvelous job of portraying So Wa Wai! Let’s not forget Sandra Ng who delivers a solid yet genuine performance as a mother who unconditionally stands with her beloved son. Her performance is not only subtle but also the backbone of the story.

The cinematography itself uses earthy colors with a variety of green, orange, and blue as its main tones and ambiances. Other than the story, from the very start, one of the aspects that drew me into the movie is the music. It offers a variety of the spectrum. From a melancholy piano, the grand orchestra which offers a sequence of strings and the use of dissonance to stir the angst, to the uplifting percussion march and band performance-crafted with empowering lyrics giving a great flavor to the movie. The music does deliberately strengthen the story but at some point, it gets overwhelming due to the grand mixture it offers almost in every scene. The proportion can be managed to create more balances between the spaces and dialogues. 

Overall, Zero to Hero is a memorable movie. It is something you’ll love to watch with your loved ones or simply add to your watchlist if you ever need to find some inspiration over the weekend before all the piles of work strike again. But before you watch it, please prepare your heart to break, mend, and be enlightened with the genuine love and the victorious smiles you’ll witness throughout the movie. 

What did you think of the Netflix film Zero to Hero (2021)? Comment below. 

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