For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Foreign Language Film (2013-Present), here’s a review of Coming Home (2014) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Jordan of Epileptic Moondancer for choosing this month’s interesting (if not uncomfortable for me) genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Jane of 500 Days of Film She has chosen another genre that is well out of my own comfort zone but I am up for the challenge. We will be reviewing our favorite Horror Films
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Aug by sending them to email@example.com Try to think out of the box! Great choice Jane!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
Coming Home (2014)
Time can burn
As years are lost.
It won’t return
At any cost,
No matter how we humans yearn
For life ere it was tempest-tost.
Time can heal
As years have shown.
We slowly feel
What once was stone,
And many find relief to deal
And reap some joy where tears were sown.
Yet even when we beg and kneel,
Some solaces time does not own.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (solely for the heavy themes, nothing much objectionable)
Up until recently, the only Chinese films I’ve seen were highly choreographed kung fu movies, from the sublime (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to the silly but still impressive (Drunken Master). However, last year’s Coming Home (or Gui Lai) offered a far more dramatic example of Chinese cinema, one still haunted by the country’s history of Communism.
Not to be confused with the 1978 drama with Jon Voight, Coming Home details the homecoming of Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming), a professor sent to a labor camp during Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. After escaping and making his way home on a rainy night, he tries to see his family but is fearful to meet them, especially his daughter Dandan (Zhang Huiwen) who has been taught by government schools to consider her father an enemy of the state. An attempted rendezvous with his wife Feng goes horribly wrong, and only after many years is he finally released. Upon their reunion, though, he learns that his wife has unexplained amnesia and doesn’t recognize him anymore.
Coming Home lets its drama unfold at a slow, deliberate pace that’s kept intriguing by the outstanding acting from the trio of main characters. Chen Daoming as Lu ably evokes the inner turmoil of a man thrilled at being with his wife again yet heartbroken that she no longer knows him. Gong Li as Feng is clearly a damaged soul, revealing her fragility as she looks forward to her husband’s return when he is, in fact, right in front of her. Lastly, Huiwen as Dandan is caught between loyalties, hoping to help her parents and atone for her earlier callousness, the product of selfishness and indoctrination.
With its strong performances, Coming Home has great potential, but it’s sadly squandered. As Lu tries to reawaken his wife’s memory, one gets the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before something sparks her recognition. That would be predictable, though, and it plays out a bit differently and disappointingly. There’s a moment involving a piano that is absolutely beautiful and would have made a brilliant ending, yet the film drags on into tedium, missing a golden opportunity in order to tie up a couple loose ends. In doing so, the filmmakers eschew the predictable and aim for the bittersweet, which ends up being more bitter than sweet.
The ending notwithstanding, Coming Home is an emotionally sensitive portrait of the damage done to one family by an oppressive government. It’s the type of film I would expect to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, and even if that didn’t happen, it proved to me that China can offer more than just wuxia smackdowns
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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