Liyan and Yuwen live in post-war torpor, childless but with Liyan's school-aged sister. He coughs, imagining he has TB; Yuwan embroiders; they sleep in separate rooms. A surprise visit from... See full summary »
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Liyan and Yuwen live in post-war torpor, childless but with Liyan's school-aged sister. He coughs, imagining he has TB; Yuwan embroiders; they sleep in separate rooms. A surprise visit from Liyan's boyhood friend Zhang, a big city physician, wakes up the household. To Zhang's amazement, he discovers his friend's wife is his own youthful sweetheart. Possibilities abound: an affair, an arranged marriage of Zhang and Little Sister, now 16, or simply ending ennui and embracing vitality. Can a stifling atmosphere of Chinese Chekhov give way to spring? Alcohol at a birthday party speeds resolution. Written by
The movie concerns a tragic emotional triangle between Zhang Zhichen, a successful doctor, who, on returning from Shanghai finds that his long lost sweetheart Yuwen, has married his best friend in his absence. That his best friend, Dai Liyan is a bit of a passionless, malingering whinger (whom, we are given to understand, is somewhat lacking in the trouser department) is, I think, supposed to tip our guilty sympathies toward the unrequited pair. However, there is no lingering eye contact, no haltingly emotional dialogue, no inadvertent contact, in fact no telegraphing of emotion of any kind between the friend and the wife. Yumen recites her lines as if they were a shopping list, and Zhang Zhichen seems to be reading his off the back off his eyelids. This peculiar lack of chemistry between the erstwhile lovers means that for me at least, this movie never gets off the ground. This is a real shame, as it is almost impossible to find fault with the LOOK of this movie. The cinematography is absolutely spot on, establishing shots are just where they need to be, POVs are perfect, the lighting reveals where it should and creates pools of shadow for the actors to move in and out of. Slow pans through densely textured interiors, alternately obscuring and disclosing, give an almost vertiginous sense of solidity and depth to the stage upon which the actors perform. That the actors don't seem to know how to convey the intensity and recklessness of true love upon that stage is the real tragedy of this movie. Two stars for acting, four for set design and cinematography
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