A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out a... Read allA couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.
Now the details for those of you who want it.
The Last Train home is a beautiful and tragic picture of what China is like for factory workers. Forced to work in a city factory, the Zhangs sacrifice their beautiful yet difficult life on the farm with their children in hopes that they can get enough money to send them to college. All the factories allow them to go home one time during the year, meaning thousands and thousands of people all trying to get back to their rural towns in China all at the same time. A surprising and eye opening experience into a world you never knew existed. The train stations are filled to the brim, people turn violent, and people faint from exhaustion. All for something so simple that many take for granted; going home.
The factories are not demonized in this film, in fact, it shows us how dependent the people are on it. If a factory closes down, it's workers are devastated. So many work there so they can scrap together enough money to help their families in the country. All are in danger of extreme poverty and starvation. It raises a lot of moral questions on if sweat shops are necessarily as bad as everyone thinks. The quality of living is horrible, sure, but on the other hand these people desperately need the money just so that their children maybe luckier than they were and go to college. It's a topic that leaves you torn, even if it's not focused on in the film.
Like I mentioned above, this documentary doesn't feel like one. Documentaries, though interesting, can come off as artificial. With Last Train Home this isn't the case. It is a seamless flowing film that drops you into this family's lives as a silent observer. The director never makes a comment on his project and lets the family tell their story for us. I believe this is what makes this film so strong and emotionally stirring. It's easy to get lost in their many, many, beautiful and painful moments and then you realize that these people are real. They exist. This really happened. Then it is all the better or all the worst.
Now this film isn't all doom and gloom. You laugh, you cry, just like it should be. The director is able to get his point across with out making it feel like there is no hope. Instead you cling to it. Things have to get better, you tell yourself, and sometimes it does. However this is the main component that keeps you glued to the very last second and leaves you wanting more. Such a simple thing but in a film like this one it could have been easily lost in all of the misery.
It also should be added that this film is great for showing the conflict between 'Old China' thinking vs the 'Modern China' thinking. It has been a topic that has come up in various literature, such as Pearl Buck's 'The Good Earth', but it has never rung so clear as in this film. The Grandmother's old superstitions and old way of thinking is conflicted with her grandchildren's modern view on the world.
Overall, this film is as close to perfection as it could get. It draws you in and keeps you there until the final moment, until the credits roll and until the last line of dialogue is spoken. It's a film of sacrifice, family, and survival. It has a powerful message that needs to be heard.
- Aug 29, 2010