It is so easy to see this film as a glimpse of China during a period of upheaval. We see the events of the era, notably Mao's death, the Gang of Four and their downfall, up to the era of small- and later large-scale capitalism. Focusing on changes in society and the impact on families, particularly one, in a small village causes us to lose sight of what this film is really about.
Torn from his family and sent to a reeducation camp, Gengnian is determined to make up for the time he lost (six years) as a father. Like many fathers, and I include my own among them, he feels the need to be firm and instill discipline in his son; to guide him in the direction he "should" go. In this case, it is painting. You see so many American fathers in Gengnian, especially those who are children of the depression. You also see those fathers that live vicariously though their children and push them to excel even without asking if this is what they really want.
The film gives us a glimpse of a changing China, but we also see family interaction in a way that we are not familiar with, and that alone makes it worthwhile. But, it is not a documentary; we should focus on our relationships with our fathers and sons, and we certainly will if we allow ourselves to be drawn into the film.
Yang Zhang has given us something to really think about. With brilliant cinematography by Jong Lin (Bend it Like Beckham, Eat drink Man Woman), and an amazingly good performance by Joan Chen as the materialistic mother, it was a real treat.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?