This melodrama is one of many that have embraced the period setting of Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation of World War II. Chow Yun-Fat, in an award-winning performance, plays a poor worker at a small rice shop. He befriends a rickshaw driver (Alex Mann) who falls in love with the shop owner's daughter. When the shop owner forbids the couple to marry, the trio decides to runaway to mainland China. However, their plan is interrupted by the Japanese invasion, and their friendship and loyalty is put to the test in the events that follow. Similar to films like Casablanca, Hong Kong 1941 is a good example of how Hong Kong cinema has made much use of this period and the theme of love in a desperate time. However, the film also depicts the brutality that occurred during the occupation, and the portrayal of the Japanese invasion force in this film reflects a deep resentment that parallels the representations of the German Nazis in Western film.
~ Jonathan E. Laxamana, Rovi