'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
This film was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the two main acting awards, with Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei winning the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Actress, respectively. See more »
In very many ways this film is almost a reboot of Zhang Yimou's film To Live, from 1994, which tells the many trials and tribulations of a family from the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. So Long My Son picks up that chronological baton, and tells a story about family bonds, the meaning of friendship and what constitutes our morals and ethics through the last 30/40 years of Chinese history, from a stilted, materially basic time of 1980 through to the hypermodernity of China in the 2010s.
In the same way To Live aimed thinly disguised critiques at the Chinese government's policies through showing its impact on ordinary people, So Long My Son fires a number of shots too and it's in fact a little surprising to me some of these have been overlooked by the censors. The most obvious of them is the criticism of the one child policy, but hidden in there too are mentions of the privatisation of state owned industries in the early 90s and the mass redundancies that went with them, as well as criticism of the wealth inequality of modern China that has ensued from the market economy transition of the 80s and 90s.
I'm unsure if this was a problem specific to the release version I saw, though I have seen other reviews saying the plot was hard to follow, but I noticed that the English subtitles was often only translating about 1/5 of the dialogue in Mandarin. As a speaker of both, I followed the plot and characters quite easily, but can absolutely understand why many reviewers and comments have said they found the characters and plots hard to distinguish if the subtitling was a problem. However, with one eye on the subtitles, I think the fact they were missing a lot of the Mandarin dialogue would have created a really dreamy plotline that complements well the cinematographic style deployed - long panoramic shots that suddenly cut into a character's perspective; languid sequences that soak in the environment; and shots designed to make the audience feel voyeurs in a private situation.
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