A young man develops severe neck pain after swimming in a polluted river; his dysfunctional parents are unable to provide any relief for him or themselves.


Ming-liang Tsai
6 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Tien Miao ... Father
Kang-sheng Lee ... Hsiao-Kang
Yi-Ching Lu ... Mother (as Hsiao-Ling Lu)
Ann Hui ... Director (as Anne Hui)
Shiang-chyi Chen ... Girl
Chao-jung Chen ... Anonymous Man
Shiao-Lin Lu Shiao-Lin Lu ... Mother's lover (as Long Chang)
Kuei-Mei Yang ... Girl in Hotel


In Taiwan, Xiao-kang, a young man in his early 20s, lives with his parents in near silence. He is plagued by severe neck pain. His father is bedeviled by water first leaking into his bedroom and then flooding the apartment; rain is incessant. Xiao-kang's mother is overcome by sexual longing for her son, sometimes making seemingly incestuous overtures. They try virtually every intervention for Xiao-kang's neck: Western medicine, a chiropractor, acupuncture, an herbal doctor, and a faith healer, Master Liu. Are the family's silent dynamics and Xiao-kang's neck pain connected? And what about the body floating in the Tamsui River: is everything dead? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


On the set of Vive L'Amour, whose production immediately preceded The River, star Lee Kang-sheng dealt with chronic neck pains which inspired this film. See more »


Girl: Hsiao-kang, I want to go pee. Could you turn off the lights?
[Hsiao-kang turns off the lights]
Girl: The curtains, too.
See more »


Follows Vive L'Amour (1994) See more »

User Reviews

The River
30 December 2011 | by MartinTellerSee all my reviews

This is the Tsai film that has gone the longest between my first and second viewings. I've lost my old review, but I think it was sometime in 2003. Although several key scenes have lingered in my memory, for some reason over the years I've downgraded it to "2nd tier Tsai". I think that's a good place for it, bearing in mind that 2nd tier Tsai is still really, really good. It builds on VIVE L'AMOUR and sets up more of his signature elements -- water, illness, isolation, urban decay. The only real problem with it is that there a few scenes that don't add anything. They're variations on ideas that have already been sufficiently expressed. However, the bulk of the film is compelling despite the typical snail's pace. Kang-sheng Lee's chronic sore neck (which I'm sure we're meant to infer is caused by submerging himself in the polluted river) is subtly horrifying, one of the most haunting images of pain I've seen. Although I think Tsai did better at expressing communication breakdown in other films, the theme is put across strongly, culminating in that deeply disturbing climax. If it doesn't all quite come together perfectly, it's nonetheless a film that resonates with me.

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Release Date:

7 August 1997 (Taiwan) See more »

Also Known As:

The River See more »

Filming Locations:

Taipei City, Taiwan

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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