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A tender, sympathetic movie with imagery that is not spectacular but that will leave a great impression. The story of a unique friendship across boundaries of culture and language develops at a moderate pace but takes a dramatic turn in the end.
In all of this, the elements water, wind and fire play an important role, just as they did in the ancient Chinese poetry which runs as a thread throughout the film. Especially the element water. Water reflects and carries anything that will float. Water connects and separates. Water holds fish, a source of livelihood. And how do you sustain that, what do you do with the means of life you are given? It's one of the questions the film gets you thinking about. The opposite of water is fire and you will need to see the film for yourself to find out how fire is put to full dramatic use. And then there is the wind, which has the unique quality to bring us closer to a loved one far away. The elements are of course universal, as are friendship and love
the main themes in this story of immigrants.
Parenthood is another theme. It really got me thinking, having no children myself but being a proud uncle, what it must feel like to be a parent. For Shun Li, one of the two main characters, it is a source of great joy, but also of tears as she is separated from her son. Unfortunately not everyone is as grateful to be a parent as Shun Li, as we see in a striking scene with one of the main guests of the café.
Apart from being a poetic film about friendship, parenthood and the elements around us, it also tells us about sacrifice and how all acts are connected. This is shown through the role of Lian, the roommate of Shun Li. Lian is most often seen performing tai chi movements on the beach. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts for balancing body, mind and spirit. It is a way of getting in touch with the world around you and all the lifeforms in it, close by and far away. Lian is a silent figure but her final act proves to show her understanding of the way that all life and all deeds are connected.
It's a film about poetry where poetry becomes life, which is the main feature of great art.
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