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When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.
In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each day and promises her an extra 10 yuan if there's not one less student when he returns. Within days, poverty forces the class troublemaker, Zhang Huike, to leave for the city to work. Minzhi, possessed of a stubborn streak, determines to bring him back. She enlists the 26 remaining pupils in earning money for her trip. She hitches to Jiangjiakou City and begins her search. The boy, meanwhile, is there, lost and begging for food. Minzhi's stubbornness may be Huike and the village school's salvation.Written by
Literally determination personified - Even one cannot be less
This is the depiction of a true story with the two lead characters performed by the actual person: Wei Minzhi, 13 year old young girl who is a substitute for the village teacher, and Zhang Huike, 11 year old young boy who left school to go to the city to find work to pay for family debt.
It is DERTERMINATION personified. She is one young lady who's not worried about her looks or other people's criticism. She is truly one track minded to find the lost student and to bring him home back to the village, and does not care if others are curt with her, or impolite; she's just very focused on achieving what she came to the city for - to get Zhang Huike back to the village school - no matter what it takes!
Simple setting. Poor village, city hustles. Children interactions/reactions are always a joy to watch. Lead character is devoid of guile and her stubborn determination is direct and innocent. The hesitation in her speech, her pause and silence held her own. Her performance is guileless - plainly so - that's how precious the performance is. An occasional smile is not easy to detect, as she is so engrossed in her mission; the continuous smile towards the end is well earned. There is magic after all.
This is a rare gem from director Zhang Yimou, quite a different flavor from his film collaborations with heaven-sent leading lady Gong Li.
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