'We're waiting to grow old'. This sentence briefly sums up Yaoyun and his wife Liyun's bitter realization about their lives. They were once a happy family - until their son drowned playing by a reservoir. And so Yaojun and Liyun leave their home and plunge into the big city, although nobody knows them there and they cannot even understand the local dialect. Their adopted son Liu Xing does not offer them the comfort they had hoped for either. Defiantly rejecting his 'foreign' parents, he one day disappears altogether. The married couple are repeatedly enmeshed in their memories. Finally, they decide to return to the site of their lost hopes. In this family saga spanning three decades of Chinese history, the private and the political merge and the individual gets caught up in the gears of a society in the throes of constant change. Part melodrama, part critique of the times, this film takes us from the country's upheaval in the 1980s following the Cultural Revolution to the prospering ...Written by
Chinese film 'So Long, my Son' opens with Yaoyun and Liyun, a couple in an industralised town during the 1980s, suffering a great personal tragedy. Some years later they have left their hometown and are living with their son in a port. Some years later still and they are returning for the first time to their hometown in order to see a dying friend. The gaps in-between are filled in by multiple flashbacks, during which we see the human costs of China's environmentally-sensible one-child policy; how the authorities attempt to crush personal expression; and the ramifications of Yaoyun and Liyun's tragedy.
All these flashbacks are difficult to keep track of, especially as they are not in chronological order. So from that aspect this is a film that would probably reward repeated viewing. Certainly I would be happy to see it again; as played by Jingchun Wang and Mei Yong, respectively, Yaoyun and Liyun are a likeable couple. Their circle of friends may be less well-developed, consisting of stock characters such as the fun-loving party girl, the free spirit and the blindly-loyal Party functionary, but they all add colour to the story. I also enjoyed the depiction of China's transformation and development over the two decades covered by the film.
I saw this in the cinema during the 2019 London Film Festival. While I certainly recommend it, I suggest waiting until you can watch it in your own home: at three hours long you will want to be as comfortable as you possibly can be!
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