This was the spotlight film of Asian Film Festival of Dallas and I think it was completely deserved. I thought it had all of the makings to really highlight the festival. It showed that the best Asian movies aren’t just action films and can have narratives. It showed that Asian films aren’t limited to having average cinematography and okay character development. It was relieving to also see so many people who very much enjoyed it. The film shattered stereotypes and I think it was a great way to highlight the festival.
This film is about a mute woman, Hong Xia (Yueting Lang), and her terrible husband, La Hong (Ailei Yu), dies in an accident. A kid named Han Chong (Ziyi Wang) has been told to take care of Xia because he was the one who got the mine that killed Hong. While Chong spends time with Xia, he grows to like and admire her. We also are shown Xia’s past. Different village people are slowly introduced and the movie weaves into this intricate, full story. The film twists and turns until growing into this monumental climax that was so gripping and exciting. I was on the edge of my seat for the greater part of the last 20 minutes. It was exciting and thrilling and what I wanted this drama to be.
If you’re looking for a movie with amazing cinematography, this is the film for you. I’d honestly say that it’s better than the Revenant. I think the shots that the director, Larry Yang, chooses were well thought out and contributed a lot to the film. There were some shots that were taken high in the mountains that I still have no idea how they kept the camera warm enough or even got that far away. The way the camera shows the community versus isolationism was also amazing. The camera placement either made me feel like I was an outsider or I was in the community as a bystander. I enjoyed that thoroughly. I also loved the way that the camera panned around. It was interesting and nice to see something different.
The score in the movie was phenomenal. The sounds that the baby made sounded real. I also liked how they were mixed to make it sound like voices were to the right and left of you in the theater. It was a nice touch and showed how the director cared about the little things. I thought that the score provoked great emotions and provided a release that opened the floodgates in my eyes. I was surprised at how well the score captured each mood. I never felt like I heard a song that felt out of place. I think the best part of the score was how it showed the joy in all of the dark times. This happened with Xia especially since each time we go back into her past, we see darkness. Then, we’re taken into the present and see her doing something small that makes her so happy which is banging pots and joining in with the war cry. The music follows her from the darkness and then into the happiness so well. It makes her feel like she’s finally fitting in after being ostracized for so long.
The main debate in the film is whether you should honor the community or the individual. It sparked the conversation on what matters more: the village or the person who needs help. I think the film really adds the perspective at the beginning by showing all of the village people coming together while showing Xia’s background and it makes you really feel for her. These two sides are both “right” in their own ways clash and fight. Each side makes sacrifices but when there’s conflict, it all falls apart. We see the elders and everyone around the situation trying to decide what the best plan of action is and the real answer is that I don’t know what to do. Do you protect the people that you care the most about or do you help the person who needs the most help? The village didn’t report the murder, so they would all suffer if they didn’t blame anyone else. But if Chong gave himself up, his life would suffer to help Xia. If Xia gave herself up, then she’d just be an outsider and continue her miserable life. It’s hard decision and I think the film went through all of the different emotions very well.
Overall, this way a beautiful movie with a great story. I was glad that it broke most Asian film stereotypes and hopefully exposed people to a different way of life. I was happy that the mountain shots really put me in perspective to where this was. The performances were great and I even liked the kids’ performances. The film also had a near perfect score and the sound effects were great.
Score: 10 out of 10