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In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Zhang Ziyi was originally cast as Nina before dropping out of the film. Li Bingbing signed on to replace her. See more »
The last paragraphs of the unsent letter that Nina found in Sophias apartment, which can be seen when she closes the notebook, don't match Nina's voice-over. See more »
People say I'm sending Sebastian and Nina to New york so neither will take my job. Hey, perhaps that's partly true. You know, like these butterflies that surround us this evening, it's a time of transformation, new beginnings.
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A film about laotong, the bonding of two women for eternity as kindred sisters, is unusual to say the least and one that is beautifully retold in the manner of so many oriental stories must be a rarity. The reason it works so well is because it is shot at two layers, one in the present day, and the other at a time when women needed each other for support. In fact the retelling of the latter is the result of a book written by Sophia of the life of Snow Flower in the title. In each layer Sophia/Snow Flower is bonded to Nina/Lily. The acting by Gianna Jun (Sophia/Snow Flower) and Bingbing Li as Nina/Lily is extraordinary with sterling support from an excellent cast. The cinematography and soundtrack are also first rate.
In essence the story explores love in many guises via the relationship of the two present day characters and their mirrors of old, but it is only at the conclusion of the film that we are allowed to be inside the minds of the kindred sisters and their relationship. This is not a film that pivots upon romantic love since it delves very deep into the agendas the women have and for that reason alone it may not be a commercial success. That shouldn't detract from its beauty as a work of art but clearly it has had an effect on the film's popularity on IMDb. And that is a shame because it is well worth lasting all of its one hundred and four minutes including the beautiful wash drawings displayed with the final credits.
I don't know how this film manages less than six on the ratings for I feel a little mean in only giving it eight because of the material it explores. It is worthy of a visit to cinema, or even ownership of a DVD. Oriental cinema has made another worthy addition to its growing list of excellent stories turned into film.
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