• Gui Lai / Coming Home (2014) - Chinese people need to open their hearts and minds - 7/10 (20/06/19)

    Gui Lai / Coming Home (2014)

    Zhang Yimou's Coming Home is a thought-provoking, slow-paced and emotionally moving drama that tells the tragic story of a family torn apart by the Cultural Revolution. The movie is surprisingly critical of China's past, takes its time to introduce the three profound main characters and offers a harrowing tale of family, love and loyalty.

    The film revolves around professor, husband and father Lu who gets sent to a labour camp in Northwest China. Many years later, he escapes from the labour camp and attempts to visit his wife and daughter. While his wife is enthusiastic to see him again, the daughter has been heavily indoctrinated by the Communist Party and believes her father is responsible for the family's difficult situation. When she meets her father briefly, she reveals the information to the police and hopes to get the lead role in a ballet in return. Her father gets arrested the next day, her mother breaks down in tears and the daughter still doesn't get the lead role. Three years later, the Cultural Revolution has come to an end and Lu finally comes home. He is welcomed by his cold and distant daughter Dandan and is shocked when he realizes that his wife Yu doesn't remember him anymore. He learns that she is suffering from amnesia and tries to reawaken her memory through déjà vu by showing her pictures of their past, reading her the letters he wrote her and playing music they have listened to together. Even though his wife still does't recognize him, Lu doesn't give up on her and prefers to spend his life being a stranger to his wife instead of trying his luck elsewhere.

    The movie convinces with stunning acting performances. Chen Daoming incarnates the faithful, intellectual and patient professor perfectly. Gong Li is stunningly realistic as confused, fragile and longing teacher. Zhang Huiwen delivers the goods as desperate, haunted and manipulated daughter. Based upon the novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi by Geling Yan, the script convinces with its critical realism. This is supported by honest settings that portray the poverty and simplicity of life in urban China throughout the seventies.

    Potential viewers must be prepared to watch a slow-paced movie without any surprising plot twists, side stories or vivid outbursts.

    If you appreciate realistic dramas, this movie will grow on you and might move you by the end as you will get attached to the three tragic characters. In Canada, many members of the First Nations have testified being unable to express genuine love to their children because they have been abused in their own childhoods in residential schools. This tendency transcends through generations and is still an ongoing problem even decades after the end of this silent genocide. In a certain way, something similar can be said about certain people from China who have been indoctrinated in a way that they are unable to love their own family or to get engaged in a passionate relationship until today. A movie like Coming Home helps this long and difficult healing process and shows that family, love and loyalty are more important than educational, material and political matters.

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