Coming Home/ 归来/ Guīlái – 2014 Chinese Film

BY RUBY CHINGU

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Ouh, yours truly have been absent from the world of blogging for oh-so-long. Things have been changing so much and so fast, at times I feel like I can’t breathe. BUT hopefully my blogging craze has finally returned. My duties as an amateur film reviewer shall continue!! (dear God, please don’t let me be lazy!)

After my three months absence, what better way to start my review with a film by my most favourite director of all time, Mr Zhang Yi Mou? I know – there is no better way. 

Coming Home is a film that reminds us why Mr Zhang is a force to be reckoned with. Truth to be told, I have been experiencing difficulties to enjoy Mr Zhang’s post-2000 films in comparison to his pre-2000 films which I have always worshipped such as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live. However, Coming Home reminded me of the rawness and endurance of human emotions, much like his previous work. 

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Coming Home is a simple tale of a family whose life had changed dramatically due to the Cultural Revolution. There are three main characters in the film – Lu the father, Yu the mother and Dandan the daughter. The film began with Lu, who had been imprisoned by the government for more than ten years for his rightist political leanings, escaping from prison. His wife, Yu was a school teacher who had been taking care of their daughter on her own. Upon receiving contact from her husband, she was exhilerated, desperately yearning for a reunion with her long-awaited beloved. 

However, their daughter, Dandan hated her father. Due to the bitterness of being a political prisoner’s daughter, she reported the reunion to the authorities in hope to receive the main role in a ballet performance in the national dance academy. Having separated her parents, she did not receive the main role as promised by the officer, cast away by her mother who was afflicted with an amnesia-like mental illness a few years later and gave up dancing to work in a textile factory. 

Simply put, Dandan was struck with guilt for tearing the family apart. 

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After a few years, Lu returned home. However, Yu failed to recognize him due to her illness. Despite that, Lu did not give up. For years, he stayed close to Yu, becoming her neighbour, driver, letter reader and even a piano tuner for the sole purpose of taking care of his wife. The touching part of the film was that Yu, despite not realizing that her husband had been in front of her all along, would wait for him on the 5th of each month at the railway station. They stayed like that for many years – together as a family – despite Yu’s non-awareness of the people she loved had been around her all along.

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Shit, the film is so sad… *wiping away my tears* 

That is the specialty of Chinese films. They start off sad. Then, they get sadder. And sadder. Without any moments of happiness and humour. Life is challenging. Life is difficult. Some people never get what they deserved. Deal with it and keep marching on. 

The film displays how policies and action by a bigger foce ie the authorities affects the lives of its people, especially family based on the film’s context. Loneliness and self-reliant led to the conditions of a parent raising the children on his or her own as their partners had been taken away by the government for the purpose of ‘rehabilitation’. Children, who barely knew their imprisoned parent, would grow up to be complicated individuals as they had to bear the labels of ‘criminal’s children’. 

Simply put, families were torn apart and forced to be made incomplete. 

The main question is – how would they find themselves back together? How would they mend all the lost times? 

The father was relentless in his devoted love for his wife. He stayed with her despite his wife not knowing him anymore. He became the father his daughter finally needed. The daughter asked for forgiveness and moved on. With each other’s support, they cared for Yu the mother. 

Chen Daoming (Lu the father) and Gong Li (Yu the mother) were amazing in their performances. Completely in character and superbly realistic, I shall not drag the review with praises for them. Like… c’mon, we know they can act! The daughter, played by a newcomer Zhang Huiwen, was great, too.

I hope there will be more films like this in the future – realistic, poignant, simple and heartrending. At times, we do need films to entertain us. However, at times, I would like to lie down on my bed and let films teach me a thing or two about life…

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