So Long, My Son – Film Review
Director: Xiaoshuai Wang
Writers: Mei Ah, Xiaoshuai Wang
Stars: Liya Ai, Jiang Du, Zhao-Yan Guo-Zhang
We meet Yaojun (Wang Jingchun) and Liyun (Yong Mei) as they face into the defining moments of their lives. They find the body of their son lifeless in the water beside a local reservoir. They pick his remains from the water and run to the local hospital where they hope against hope.
This film gives us the story of one family over three decades. We see first hand the pain of the couple after their personal tragedy and also the problems associated with the Chinese one-child policy. While these private issues are being played out, we also see the transition in the country itself as it moves from communism to a market economy.
Before this film, director Wang was mainly know for Beijing Bicycle, released in 2001, which used De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves as its inspiration. Wang has released 11 films since that time, including shorts and documentaries, so he has not been resting on his laurels by any means.
The film delivers its story in piecemeal fashion, as it jumps between decades. At one moment we see the events and years later the results they have had on Yaojun and Liyun. The two lead actors give a muted and underplayed performance. The film is quite demanding of the viewer but is equally rewarding if you’re prepared to make the effort.