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Master Chu, a retired Chinese Tai-Chi master, moves to Westchester, New York to live with his son Alex, his American daughter-in-law Martha, and their son Jeremy. However, Martha's second novel is suffering from severe writers' block brought on by Chu's presence in the house. Alex must struggle to keep his family together as he battles an inner conflict between cultural tradition and his modern American lifestlye. Written by
To me, Pushing Hands seems like a statement on and indictment of the American (U.S.) selfishness and self-centeredness that we have institutionalized and made to become a way of life. Deb Snyder's (as Martha Chu's) constrictive, jaundiced rigidity and lack of empathy is excruciating as we see her callous treatment of her gentle, undemanding, caring father-in-law, when he moves from Peking to N.Y.C to live with her and his son.
The fact that she wants to throw him on the streets is obvious from the first scene.
It is odd and ironic that Martha Chu looks and acts very ill (pale, ashen skin, clinically depressed, lifeless eyes) throughout the film, and these symptoms would have been transformed by her practicing of Tai Chi, but she will have none of it.
After her father in law, Mr. Chu (played by Lung Sihung), saves her life by diagnosing her bleeding ulcer, his "son" and daughter-in-law decide to send him to some kind of old folks home, because he took a walk and got lost. I almost took the movie out of my machine at that point and threw it in the trash: I could not watch as these two narcissists who invited this man to live with them, "re-decide" and put him in some type of communal living.
This is a statement on how American selfishness and "individual identity" is infecting even those Chinese who are now living in the U.S.
Mr. Chu's only respite is a woman friend he meets at the Chinese cultural center, Mrs. Chen. Mr. Chu opens his heart to this some-what reserved, divorced lady, and as the film progresses, we see just how good of a man Mr. Chu is. His so-called family do not even deserve to be in his presence.
The scene at the end, where Alex Chu begins to teach "push hands" to his wife, is a mockery. Martha Chu is a character that I really hate. (Mr. Chu, you will love).
This movie is a stern and sometimes heart-wrenching warning to rectify and transform the selfishness and materialism that defines so many of us.
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