Review: ‘Home Coming’ (2022), starring Zhang Yi, Wang Junkai and Yin Tao

November 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zhang Yi in “Home Coming” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“Home Coming” (2022)

Directed by Rao Xiaozhi

Mandarin and Arabic with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place from February to March 2015, in China and the fictional Middle Eastern country of Numia, the action film “Home Coming” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A Chinese diplomat and his colleagues desperately try to save about 125 Chinese citizens who are trapped in war-torn Numia.

Culture Audience: “Home Coming” will appeal primarily to fans of war movies that tell compelling stories where humanity is not lost amid all the brutal action.

Wang Junkai in “Home Coming” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“Home Coming” piles on some plot twists that look overly manufactured for a movie. However, this action thriller succeeds in delivering heartfelt performances and gripping suspense from beginning to end. Some viewers might automatically dislike the movie if they think it’s nothing more than patriotic propaganda. However, there really isn’t any political preaching in the movie, which has a story that could apply to any nation with the resources and privileges to have diplomats who go on rescue missions.

Directed by Rao Xiaozhi, “Home Coming,” which takes place from February to March 2015, is essentially the story about how a group of Chinese diplomats try to rescue about 125 Chinese citizens who are trapped in a fictional, war-torn Middle Eastern country named Numia. Qin Haiyan, Shi Ce, Lei Zhilong and Bu Jingwei co-wrote the “Home Coming” screenplay. “Home Coming” is being marketed as “based on a true story,” although “Home Coming” doesn’t name any specific real-life people whose story is the basis of this movie. Certainly, the intent of the movie is to make viewers think about all the real-life innocent people who’ve been caught in the middle of warfare.

In the beginning of “Home Coming,” it’s the Chinese New Year in February 2015. Numia is in the midst of a civil war, with rebels fighting to take over the established government, which is led by a president that the rebels think is a dictator. The Chinese government has ordered all Chinese citizens to evacuate Numia. However, the plane flight carrying these evacuees is full. As a result, a group of Chinese diplomats had to stay behind in the Numia capital city of Laptis.

Chaos is everywhere in Numia, where deadly violence (such as bombs, arsons, shootings and stabbings) can happen to anyone at any time. In a car on its way to the Chinese embassy in Laptis are four Chinese diplomats who work for the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Consulate Protection Center. All four diplomats are among those who were left behind because of the full plane flight that carried other Chinese citizens out of Numia.

Zong Dawei (played by Zhang Yi), who is in his 40s and driving the car, is the hardest-working of these four diplomats. He has a stoic demeanor that gets tested as the situation becomes increasingly tense and dangerous. Dawei lives in Shanghai, where his wife Chen Yue (played by Wan Qian), also known as Yueer, is due to give birth in a few weeks. The baby will be the couple’s first child together.

Cheng Lang (played by Wang Junkai) is a 25-year-old “rookie” diplomat, who is the youngest of the four stranded diplomats. Lang is eager to impress his colleagues, but Dawei later questions Lang’s abilities to be a skilled negotiator in Numia because Lang doesn’t know how to speak Arabic. “Home Coming” has a somewhat predictable storyline with Lang and Dawei: The younger and less-experienced colleague tries to earn the respect of the older, jaded colleague.

Yan Xingzhou (played by Taishen Cheng) is an attorney who is in his 50s and is the oldest of the four men. Xingzhou is authoritative but he can be very impatient. In the car, he doesn’t like that it’s taking so long to get to the embassy, because of all the checkpoints, and he says he would rather just rent a car and drive to the destination himself. It’s a rather illogical plan because it would take too long to find a rental car in this chaos, and having a rental car doesn’t magically make the checkpoints disappear.

Zhang Ning (played by Zixian Zhang) is a secretary of state who is the fourth diplomat in this quartet of diplomats. Ning, who is in his late 30s or early 40s, is calm and even-tempered. He doesn’t get involved in the conflicts between Lang and Dawei. Ning has very mixed feelings about leaving Numia, because he has a daughter named Fatima (played by Elain Ahmed Lotf Rageh Algahefi), who’s about 5 or 6 years old. Fatima was born in Numia, which is also the birthplace of Fatima’s mother.

Before Numia’s civil war, Ning assumed that Fatima would be raised in Numia. And now, he’s frantically trying to find Fatima, who has disappeared. Fatima’s mother has also gone missing. However, because Fatima is a citizen of Numia, not China, there’s a big question over whether or not she will be eligible to go with the Chinese evacuees.

Dawai, Lang and Ning have a harrowing experience on the way to the Chinese embassy in Lapsis: In the car, Lang was using a video camera to record some of the rebel soldier activity outside. However, some soldier see that they are being filmed, so they stop the car, confiscate Lang’s videocamera, and detain the diplomats, who are told they won’t be released until they pay a hefty fine.

But more hell breaks loose when the building where they’re being detained is explodes from a bomb. The three diplomats escape in a daze, as they see death and destruction around them. Somehow, they make it to the Chinese embassy, where they have an emergency meeting to plan what to do next. The embassy building has been locked down, but that doesn’t mean that the building is completely safe and secure.

Dawai, Lang and Ning find out that about 1,000 Chinese citizens have been detained at the border of Numia and Talisia, a fictional country that can provide temporary asylum to these refugees. Most of these detainees don’t have their passports, which were lost or left behind in the chaos of their emergency evacuations. The rest of “Home Coming” involves the efforts to save a specific group of 125 Chinese evacuees who have been hiding in an abandoned open-air marketplace. And, of course, not everyone makes it out alive.

Some of the people who are part of this harrowing experience include two friendly Numian drivers who help the Chinese diplomats: Hassan (played by Yves Finkel) and his trusted right-hand man Kamal (played by Ahmed Mohammed Jaber Alkalthoom). The diplomats are also helped by a local Numian named Vadir, an elderly man who says he’s politically neutral. The leader of the Chinese evacuees hidden in the marketing place is a no-nonsense woman named Bai Hua (played by Yin Tao), who has a compassionate female sidekick named Zhong Ranran (played by Amy Haoyu Chen), a Red Cross volunteer.

Although “Home Coming” is mostly about what happens in Numia, the movie reveals some of the personal problems that are part of Dawai’s and Lang’s lives in China. Dawai has spent nearly all of his career as a diplomat in war-torn countries. But now that he’s about to become a father, his wife Yue has been pressuring him to take a less-dangerous job. It’s caused tension in their marriage because Dawai doesn’t want to quit his job.

Meanwhile, Ranran and Lang, who are about the same age, become closer and seem to have a mutual attraction to each other. During one of their conversations, Lang opens up about have a strict father in the army “who cares more about medals than he cares about me.” Lang having “daddy issues” partially explains why he is insecure and almost desperate to get the approval of his older male colleagues, especially Dawai.

“Home Coming” gets very graphic in depicting the horrors of war. There are scenes of dismembered bodies strewn out on the street, people burning up in flames from bomb fires, children being separated from their families, and people being hunted down and shot like animals. The military leader of the rebels is a ruthless sadist named Muftah (played by Ivan Ponomarenko), who isn’t just brutally violent. Muftah also likes to play cruel mind games with his captives.

In a movie like “Home Coming,” it’s only a matter of time before there’s a showdown between the “heroes” and the “villains.” The movie has a few moments where it looks like a situation has been resolved, but then more terror happens. “Home Coming” definitely keeps viewers on edge, to immerse audiences in the feeling that being in a war-torn country often means living in a constant state of fear and dread.

The movie’s cinematography, production design and visual effects are well-done, with all of it looking realistic but also taking on surreal qualities to depict the shock that innocent people caught in this war zone must feel. “Home Coming” also succeeds in making viewers care about the film’s main and supporting characters, who are depicted in authentic-looking ways by the talented cast members. This is not a war movie that looks like a soulless video game.

However, sensitive viewers should be warned: “Home Coming” can get very violent and disturbing in showing some of the worst things that can happen in a war-torn country. The violence isn’t gratutitous but is meant to show in realistic ways that oftenimes, no amount of diplomatic work or political neutrality can protect people who are trapped in a war-torn country. The movie specifically portrays to what the Chinese government is capable of doing to evacuate its citizens in these situations, but “Home Coming” never lets audiences forget that not everyone trapped in a war zone will have diplomats working to save them.

CMC Pictures released “Home Coming” in select U.S. cinemas on October 21, 2022. The movie was released in China on September 30, 2022.

Review: ‘Table for Six’ (2022), starring Dayo Wong, Louis Cheung, Chan Charm Man, Stephy Tang, Ivana Wong and Lin Min-Chen

November 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Dayo Wong and Lin Min-Chen in “Table for Six” (Photo courtesy of GSC Movies)

“Table for Six” (2022)

Directed by Sunny Chan

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy/drama film “Table for Six” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A photographer has a very awkward dinner with his two younger brothers and their girlfriends when he finds out that his middle brother’s new girlfriend is a woman he used to date, and he hasn’t completely gotten over their breakup.

Culture Audience: “Table for Six” will appeal primarily to fans of romantic comedy/dramas that look like they could be stage plays, but the movie tends to try too hard with its slapstick comedy and mushy dramatics.

Pictured clockwise, from upper left: Stephy Tang, Louis Cheung, Ivana Wong and Chan Charm Man in “Table for Six” (Photo courtesy of GSC Movies)

“Table for Six” awkwardly mixes slapstick comedy and sentimental drama with uneven acting. It’s a trite movie where people get angry and uncomfortable about romantic relationships. The movie’s central conflict eventually becomes very stale and tiresome in a film that did not need to drag out for nearly two hours.

Written and directed by Sunny Chan, “Table for Six” (which takes place in Hong Kong) starts out as a jumbled mess as it introduces the six characters who are at the center of the story.

  • Steve Chan (played by Dayo Wong), a middle-aged photographer who used to be famous, is the eldest of three bachelor brothers. He lives in an apartment that used to be a barbeque pork factory, which he inherited from his deceased parents.
  • Bernard Chan (played by Louis Cheung, also known as Louis Cheong Kai Chung) is Steve’s stepbrother, who is in his early 40s. Bernard’s biological mother was married to Steve’s biological father.
  • Lung Chan (played by Chan Charm Man, also known as Peter Chan Charm Man), an aspiring e-sports star in his 30s, is the younger half-brother of Steve and Bernard. Lung and Steve have the same biological father. Lung and Bernard have the same biological mother.
  • Monica (played by Stephy Tang), a marketing executive, is Steve’s ex-girlfriend and is now Bernard’s girlfriend.
  • Josephine (played by Ivana Wong), an aspiring chef, is Lung’s girlfriend of 12 years, and she has grown frustrated that he hasn’t proposed marriage to her yet.
  • Meow Ah (played by Lin Min-Chen), originally from Taiwan, is a model who is a cat enthusiast (she likes to dress in cat-decorated clothes and costumes), who is hired by Lung to be a mascot, and she becomes Steve’s casual girlfriend.

With a few exceptions, “Table for Six” takes place mostly in Steve’s apartment, where he has a home photography studio. Steve prides himself on being an excellent cook who likes to prepare the meals when he has dinner parties. The main conflict in the movie happens at one of these dinner parties.

Before that fateful dinner party happens, “Table for Six” has a flurry of activity that is scrambled together with a lot of sniping back and forth between Lung and Josephine. Lung wants to get rich from e-sports, but so far, he’s basically unemployed and nearly financially broke. “My e-sports team is headed for glory,” he tells Steve. “All we need is funding.”

Josephine is upset because Lung doesn’t have a steady income, which means they can’t really afford to get married. She nags him about it and keeps hinting that she’ll break up with him if he doesn’t find a steady job and propose marriage to her. Lung gets angry because he thinks Josephine doesn’t have enough faith and patience.

Meanwhile, Lung sees that Meow is a popular influencer on social media, so he comes up with the idea to hire her to be the mascot for his e-sports team. He asks Meow to come to Steve’s place for a photo shoot. During this photo shoot, where Meow poses with a kitchen container (which doesn’t make sense if she’s supposed to be an e-sports mascot), she flirts with Steve because she’s had a crush on him since she was a child.

Steve then remembers fan mail that Meow wrote to him years ago, when she signed the letters as Kitty Cat. It’s obvious that Meow wants to date Steve, but he tells her up front that he’s not ready to be in a relationship. That’s because Steve is still heartbroken over the end of his relationship with Monica, whom he considers to be the love of his life. One of the few scenes that takes place outside the apartment shows that Monica is a hard-driving employee who yells at her co-workers if things aren’t up to her standards.

One evening, Steve has a small dinner party with Bernard, Lung and Josephine as guests. But an uninvited guest shows up: Monica. And she drops some bombshell news. She is Bernard’s girlfriend. Monica and Bernard have been dating each other for an unspecified period of time. It’s the first time that Steve finds out about this relationship.

Naturally, Steve is upset, but then he pretends that’s he’s okay with Monica and Bernard dating each other. (Deep down, Steve really isn’t okay with it.) Bernard tells Steve that he’s sorry that he didn’t tell Steve earlier about being in a relationship with Monica. Steve appears to forgive Bernard, but during the course of the movie, Steve’s lingering romantic feelings for Monica, as well as Steve’s resentment toward Bernard, eventually come to the surface.

Because of Lung’s financial problems, Steve generously lets Lung and Josephine move in with him, on the condition that they work for Steve as his assistants. He’s in for a shock when he finds out that Josephine is a huge collector of Hong Kong decorations and trinkets, which she brings with her when she and Lung move into the already cramped apartment. Steve’s surprise about Josephine’s collection is supposed to be a funny sight gag in the movie, but the joke just falls flat.

Most of “Table for Six” is about the love triangle between Steve, Monica and Bernard. Steve has been pining for Monica, and he wants to win her back. Monica seems to show hints that she’s interested in Bernard and Steve. Up until a certain point, Monica keeps people guessing about which brother she will choose. Meanwhile, Lung and Josephine continue to bicker about where their own relationship is headed. As for Meow, she shows up once in a while like a fangirl who wants any type of attention from Steve, even though she eventually finds out that he’s still got feelings for Monica.

All of these love entanglements could have been made into a well-written comedy/drama with clever dialogue, but the movie’s scenes are either very mediocre or they try too hard to have over-the-top physical comedy. There’s a very unrealistic sequence where, during a very petty argument, everyone in the room suddenly starts smashing things. It only seems to be in the movie for some slapstick comedy that looks very ill-placed.

Another problem with this movie is that the chemistry isn’t very believable or appealing between the cast members portraying the couples, who are all mismatched characters. Monica seems to be too selfish and flaky for Bernard and Steve. Meow (who’s about 25 to 30 years younger than Steve) is infatuated with Steve, based more on fan worship than a real romance. Lung and Josephine are the type of argumentative couple who probably shouldn’t get married because they just aren’t very compatible with each other.

What makes “Table for Six” grating is that it becomes repetitive very quickly. It doesn’t help that the conversations are witless and forgettable. None of the acting by the cast is special. The entire movie might have been better as a short film.

After trying to overstuff the plot with the back-and-forth contrivances and friction over the story’s love triangle, “Table for Six” then takes complicated issues and turns them into over-simplified resolutions and schmaltz. It leaves the movie with a tone that’s very off-balance. Some viewers might enjoy this disjointed movie, but others who are looking for a more compelling story, interesting conversations and engaging characters will not be as impressed with “Table for Six.”

GSC Movies released “Table for Six” in select U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022. The movie was released in China, Hong Kong and Singapore on September 8, 2022.

Review: ‘Moon Man’ (2022), starring Shen Teng and Ma Li

September 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

King Kong Roo and Shen Teng in “Moon Man” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

“Moon Man” (2022)

Directed by Zhang Chiyu

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the year 2033, and briefly in 2043, on the moon and on Earth, the sci-fi/comedy/drama film “Moon Man” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A maintenance worker, who’s part of an astronaut crew on the moon, accidentally gets left behind on the moon in an emergency departure, and he becomes a symbol of hope after Earth experiences an apocalypse. 

Culture Audience: “Moon Man” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of sci-fi movies and movies about human survival that blend goofy comedy with poignant drama.

Ma Li in “Moon Man” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

Although the comedy in “Moon Man” sometimes gets a little too silly and repetitive for its own good, this sci-fi flick has enough memorable characters, intriguing plot developments, and heartfelt dramatic moments to be entertaining and emotionally stirring. “Moon Man” is not the type of movie that will win major awards for technical achievements or acting. It’s a crowd-pleasing film that takes some familiar elements of “stranded survivor” stories and delivers a unique spin that people of many different generations can enjoy.

Written and directed by Zhang Chiyu, “Moon Man” is based on South Korean illustrator Cho Seok’s comic book series “Moon You.” The movie alternates between showing what happens on the moon and what happens on Earth. “Moon Man” begins in 2033, by showing an astronaut team from China that’s stationed on the moon for an exploration project called UNMS Project.

There are 300 people on this team. Their mission is to explore the moon and look into possibilities that the moon could be inhabited by human beings, in case there’s an apocalypse on Earth. A massive meteorite has been detected in the universe, and scientist believe that this meteorite is headed in Earth’s direction. The team’s temporary moon home is named UNMS Base.

One of the people on the team is Dugu Yue (played by Shen Teng), who is considered to be one of the lowest-ranking team members because he’s a maintenance worker. Dugu Yue is a “regular guy” who is often ignored by the higher-ranked members of the team. He has a secret crush on the team’s no-nonsense leader, Ma Lanxing (played by Ma Li), a female astronaut who doesn’t think much of Dugu Yue in the beginning of the story.

One day, all of the UNMS Project spaceships are summoned to return to Earth for an emergency: the detected meteorite is heading to Earth much earlier than expected. In the chaos that ensues, Dugu Yue is out driving in his moon buggy, when all the spaceships leave, and he is accidentally left behind on the now-abandoned UNMS Base. Dugu Yue feels hurt and rejected. He tries to communicate with the command station on Earth, but the communication equipment doesn’t work. (He finds out why, later in the movie.)

Dugu Yue can see Earth from where he is on the moon. His hope of being rescued gets crushed when sees that shortly after his colleagues have landed on Earth, the meteorite has hit Earth, and large portions of Earth have exploded. Dugu Yue has no idea how many people survived, but it’s obvious that Earth is now experiencing an apocalypse.

It turns out that most of Dugu Yue’s colleagues did survive. They are holed up in an astronaut compound, where they can see and hear Dugu Yue on video monitors, but he can’t see and hear them. Ma Lanxing is one of the survivors.

Dugu Yue has plenty of food and water to last for several months, but he has to find a way to survive on his own until he can go back to Earth. It’s later revealed in the movie that when he was living on Earth, Dugu Yue was a loner who had no friends, loved ones or other family members for most of his childhood into his adulthood. His lonely life explains why no one except his colleagues are the only ones who know or care that he’s stranded on the moon.

Left to his own devices, Dugu Yue initially tries to have as much fun by himself. He does some moon-crater “surfing” on a snowboard, but he takes more than a few tumbles. He tries to hack into his colleagues’ computer equipment that was left behind. And he creates a life-sized cardboard replica of a human body and places a photo of Ma Lanxing’s face on this replica.

This makeshift replica of Ma Lanxing becomes Dugu Yue’s “companion.” He eats meals with it propped up in a nearby chair, and he talks to it like as if it were really Ma Lanxing. During one of these meals, Ma Lanxing confessions to the replica that he’s had a longtime crush on Ma Lanxing. And then he takes some ketchup, puts it on Ma Lanxing’s replica face, and licks the ketchup off of her face.

Meanwhile, Ma Lanxing and her colleagues in the video monitor room are watching these private moments, unbeknownst to Dugu Yue. Most of the colleagues are amused, but Ma Lanxing is not. She’s mortified and embarrassed.

During this apocalypse, many of Earth’s survivors are experiencing despair and depression. Ma Lanxing comes up with an idea that she thinks can bring hope to Earth’s remaining people: She wants to use Dugu Yue as an example of someone who is a hero survivor on the moon.

Ma Lanxing wants to livestream Dugu Yue’s activities to the people on Earth. She also concocts the idea to have a voice actor(played by Huang Zitao) play the role of Dugu Yue, in order to fabricate things that she wants people to think Dugu Yue is saying. It’s a plan that’s so absurd, it works best in an intentional comedy film such as “Moon Man.”

Ma Lanxing reports to Sun Guangyang (played by Li Chengru), the U.N. Shield Contact chairman, who goes along with the idea, with some hesitation and concern that this hoax might backfire. Another colleague who’s on board for this plan is mild-mannered and compassionate Wei Lasi (played by Lamu Yangzi, also known as Jackie Li) and her brash and disrespectful co-worker Zhu Pite (played by Yuan Chang), who is one of the first people to laugh when Dugu Yue does something to embarrass himself.

Meanwhile, Dugu Yue finds out that he’s not alone on UNMS Base. A very special kangaroo has been left behind. This kangaroo is highly intelligent and has very human-like mannerisms. (Fortunately, “Moon Man” does not make the kangaroo an animal that can talk in a human language. We have more than enough movies about talking animals.) Predictably, Dugu Yue and this feisty kangaroo, which he calls King Kong Roo, end up clashing with each other in many comedic moments.

“Moon Man” has several scenes involving slapstick comedy between Dugu Yue and King Kong Roo. The movie’s visual effects look convincing for the space exploration parts of the movie. The visual effects for the King Kong Roo aren’t entirely convincing all the time and can be distracting.

The movie goes in some directions that are more amusing that others. The relationship between Dugu Yue and King Kong Rue takes up a lot of the “Moon Man” story, but viewers will also notice how this “odd couple” also affects the people who are watching on Earth. Ma Lanxing starts off thinking that Dugu Yue is a buffoon, but over time, she begins to respect Dugu Yue.

Shen Teng anchors “Moon Man” with a performance showing his impressive skills at physical comedy, as well as emotional gravitas. The rest of the cast members also do well in their roles. However, Shen’s versatile performance as Dugu Yue will get the biggest reactions from viewers. His lead performance is also the most memorable thing about “Moon Man.”

Doing a comedy/drama movie about an apocalypse is a tricky balance that most films cannot achieve. “Moon Man” has some cringeworthy flaws, but the movie mostly succeeds in mixing comedy/drama tones without making the story too ridiculous or too serious. It’s ultimately a movie that has as much to say about the pitfalls of elevating false idols as it does about how people can find true heroes within themselves.

Far East Films released “Moon Man” in select U.S. cinemas on August 2, 2022. The movie was released in China on July 29, 2022.

Review: ‘Almost Love’ (2022), starring Li Wenhan and Xu Ruohan

September 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Xu Ruohan and Li Wenhan in “Almost Love” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

“Almost Love” (2022)

Directed by Luo Luo 

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in China’s Shanghai area, from 2009 to 2017, the dramatic film “Almost Love” has an all-Chinese cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A young man and woman have an on-again/off-again love affair, beginning when they were teenagers, and their romance is hindered by various outside influences.

Culture Audience: “Almost Love” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in romantic dramas that take place over several years and have good acting.

Li Wenhan and Xu Ruohan in “Almost Love” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

“Almost Love” has some moments that veer from bland to overly sappy, but this drama overall has realistic portrayals of an on-again/off-again romance. It’s an emotionally poignant story about a young couple whose love affair is affected by outside influences, such as career pressures and parental disapproval. “Almost Love” retreads a lot of familiar territory and tropes that are in several movies about young lovers who break up, make up, and aren’t sure if their relationship will last. If not for the engaging acting from the movie’s cast members, “Almost Love” would be a lot duller than it needed to be.

Directed by Luo Luo (who co-wrote the “Almost Love” screenplay with Zhai Pei), “Almost Love” takes place mostly in China’s Shanghai area, from 2009 to 2017. In 2009, Yu Jiaoyang (played by Xu Ruohan) is in her last year of high school, where she is a social outcast. Yu Jiaoyang has the unflattering nickname Ash-bin because she comes from a poor family.

Yu Jiaoyang has a crush on a classmate named Zhou Can (played by Li Wenhan), who is a handsome, affluent and talented aspiring artist. To her surprise, Zhou Can is attracted to Yu Jiaoyang too, and they begin dating each other. Zhou Can defends Yu Jiaoyang when she is bullied or teased at school. But when two people from very different social classes have a romance, you know what that means: At least one person in the couple’s inner circles will disapprove of the relationship.

In the case of Zhou Can, the disapproval mostly comes from his domineering mother (played by Qing Wei), who unfairly judges Yu Jiaoyang as a trashy gold digger without even taking the time to get to know Yu Jiaoyang. His mother, who insults Yu Jiaoyang to her face, also thinks that Yu Jiaoyang is a “bad influence” on Zhou Can, even though Yu Jiaoyang is actually a polite and friendly person who doesn’t get into trouble. Zhou Can’s mother constantly berates him for dating Yu Jiaoyang, until he reaches a point where he tries to hide his dating activities from his mother.

Yu Jiaoyang has her own family issues: Her parents are dead. Yu Jiaoyang’s grandmother, who’s been her guardian, is ailing. Yu Jiaoyang tries to put forth a cheerful image to the world. However, her grandmother’s health problems have caused Yu Jiaoyang a lot of stress that she tries to hide from people. Zhou Can becomes Yu Jiaoyang’s closest confidant, and she opens up to him about a lot of things in her life, including her fear about losing her grandmother.

One of the other personal issues that Yu Jiaoyang tells Zhou Can about is the true story of what really happened in a notorious incident that Yu Jiaoyang was involved in at her previous high school. In this incident, Yu Jiaoyang had an outburst in class during an exam and ripped up the exam papers of a fellow student. Yu Jiaoyang got into trouble and was branded as emotionally unstable, which is a reputation that followed her to her current school that she attends with Zhou Can.

Yu Jiaoyang tells Zhou Can the secret that’s the real reason why she destroyed a fellow student’s exam papers. This secret is shown in a flashback but won’t be revealed in this review. When Zhou Can finds out this secret, it makes him admire Yu Jiaoyang even more, because it involves a sacrifice that Yu Jiaoyang made for a friend, at the risk of Yu Jiaoyang’s academic status and personal reputation.

Because “Almost Love” is a romantic drama, the movie has some scenes that are corny but can be endearing to viewers. For example, early on in their romance, Zhou Can enters the Shanghai Arts Exhibition Competition. To cheer him along, Yu Jiaoyang surprises him by showing up at the building where the competition is taking place. It’s raining outside, and to protect herself from getting wet, Yu Jiaoyang wears a trash bin with an opening for her eyes and nose.

From inside the building, Zhou Can sees Yu Jiaoyang running in the rain and calling out his name and winning him good luck in the competition. He eventually joins her outside by wearing the same type of trash bin, and they hold hands as they run in the rain together. There’s no explanation for where these unusual trash bins came from and why Zhou Can sees Yu Jiaoyang couldn’t just use umbrellas. Viewers will just have to go along with it as a cute romantic gesture that Zhou Can and Yu Jiaoyang demonstrate to each other,

“Almost Love” spends lot of time on the angst that Zhou Can goes through to pursue is dream of becoming a visual artist whose specialty is painted illustrations. His parents disapprove of this career choice because they think it’s unstable and doesn’t pay enough money. Yu Jiaoyang is fully supportive of Zhou Can, but his insecurities often get in the way of their relationship being taken to the level that Yu Jiaoyang wants.

Yu Jiaoyang often has fantasies of getting engaged to and married to Zhou Can. Whether or not those dreams come true is eventually shown in the movie. After Yu Jiaoyang and Zhou Can graduate from high school, he struggles with his career choice and often withholds his feelings from Yu Jiaoyang, who wants Zhou Can to open up to her more than he does. Yu Jiaoyang feels insulted by Zhou Can’s emotional aloofness when she thinks they should become closer as a couple, so it leads to arguments and the couple’s first major breakup.

Zhou Can and Yu Jiaoyang eventually reconcile with each other. Yu Jiaoyang gets a well-paying office job, while Zhou Can’s career as an artist is floundering. And just like in a real life, when one partner makes a lot more money than another partner in a love couple, it can lead to problems and a power imbalance.

Zhou Can’s parents have cut him off financially, and he feels insecure about Yu Jiaoyang making money than he does. Zhou Can doesn’t want to marry Yu Jiaoyang unless he’s the main breadwinner in the household. Meanwhile, Yu Jiaoyang feels like she’s ready to marry Zhou Can, who puts off talk about marriage with her as much as possible. Zhou Can’s avoidance of discussing marriage to Yu Jiaoyang leads to more arguments, and you can easily predict the rest.

Even though Yu Jiaoyang and Zhou Can clearly love each other, one of the best things about “Almost Love” is showing that real love might not always be happen at the right time and with the right person to make the relationship last. The love story of Yu Jiaoyang and Zhou Can has its ups and downs that are portrayed by Xu Ruohan and Li Wenhan in ways that look natural, not over-acted. The best scenes in the movie are in the last 20 minutes. The writing and directing of “Almost Love” are perfectly adequate, but viewers will be emotionally touched the most by the lead cast members’ performances, which impressively show how people’s views of love and heartbreak can change with age and emotional maturity.

Far East Films released “Almost Love” in select U.S. cinemas on August 26, 2022. The movie was released in China on August 4, 2022.

Review: ‘Lighting Up the Stars,’ starring Zhu Yilong, Yang Enyou, Wang Ge and Luo Jingmin

August 14, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zhu Yilong and Yang Enyou in “Lighting Up the Stars” (Photo courtesy of China Lion Film Distribution)

“Lighting Up the Stars”

Directed by Liu Jiangjiang

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2019, in Wuhan, China, the comedy/drama film “Lighting Up the Stars” features an all-Chinese cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A bachelor ex-convict, who has taken over his family’s mortuary/funeral business, has his life turned upside down when he ends up taking care of an orphaned girl. 

Culture Audience: “Lighting Up the Stars” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in well-acted movies that skillfully blend drama and comedy in telling stories about families and unexpected changes in life.

Zhu Yilong and Luo Jingmin in “Lighting Up the Stars” (Photo courtesy of China Lion Film Distribution)

“Lighting Up the Stars” is a charming comedy/drama about the complications of love, getting second chances in life, and coping with loss. This gem of a movie presents a memorable story about an ex-con who becomes a father figure to an orphaned girl. It’s the type of subject matter that could have easily been mishandled by being too melodramatic or by being a silly slapstick comedy. However, “Lighting Up the Stars” depicts life’s ups and downs with a realistic balance, while the movie’s talented cast members bring emotional authenticity that’s highly commendable.

Written and directed by Liu Jiangjiang, “Lighting Up the Stars” takes place in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, at the beginning of the COVID-19 virus infections, when the city had not yet been placed under the lockdown that occurred in January 2020. Two very different strangers will soon find themselves in each other’s lives and will never be the same again. These two people are the movie’s central characters.

The movie’s first central character is an ex-convict named Mo Sanmei (played by Zhu Yilong), nicknamed San, a never-married bachelor in his 30s. San has recently gotten out of prison for assaulting the lover of his ex-girlfriend, who cheated on San with this lover. San’s widowed father (played by Luo Jingmin), who goes by the name Old Mo in the movie, thinks San is a disappointment to the family, which also includes San’s younger sister Mo Dajie (played by Zheng Weili). However, Old Mo is about to retire from owning and operating a mortuary/funeral business, and he wants San to take over this small business, which is literally a funeral home, since it’s where San lives after he gets out of prison.

The movie’s second central character is a precocious 4-year-old girl named Wu Xiaowen (played by Yang Enyou), who has been raised by her grandmother. Xiaowen doesn’t know if her biological parents are dead or alive. All she knows is that her parents are not in her life, and her grandmother is the only parental figure whom Xiaowen has had so far. In the beginning of the movie, Xiaowen tragically finds her grandmother deceased in the grandmother’s bed.

San and Xiaowen cross paths at the funeral for Xiaowen’s grandmother because the Mo family morturary/funeral business has been hired for the grandmother’s cremation and funeral. Xiaowen’s uncle (played by Chen Chuang) and his wife have taken temporary custody of Xiaowen. However, these spouses don’t really want permanent custody because they’ve been having marital problems, and they’re not prepared to take care of any children.

Shortly after the funeral, Xiaowen’s uncle and aunt stop by the Mo family’s funeral home and quickly tell San that they need him to look after Xiaowen for a few days. San says he’s not operating an orphanage (something he will say multiple times in the movie), but Xiaowen’s aunt and uncle don’t give him any time to turn down their request. The spouses leave Xiawoen, hand over some cash to San, and then exit in a hurry.

During the first day and night that San has to take care of Xiaowen, she meets his two employees, who are also San’s closest friends: cheerful and kind Wang Jianren (played by Wang Ge) and his practical-minded girlfriend Yin Baixue (played by Liu Lu), whose romantic relationship becomes more serious as the story continues. Jianren also lives at the funeral home. While the four of them are spending time together, San finds out that Xiaowen loves to play Mahjong, has a talent for drawing art, and that Xiaowen had a very close and loving relationship with her protective grandmother.

But the first night for Xiaowen at this funeral home gets awkward. In the cramped bedroom, there’s a bunk bed where San is sleeping on the bottom, while Xiaowen is sleeping on the top. He’s woken up by something dripping on his face. It’s Xiaowen urinating in her bed. San is immediately irritated because he thinks that this kid isn’t potty-trained. It turns out that Xiaowen is potty-trained, but she explains that she was afraid to use the toilet in the nearby bathroom because she thinks a statue placed in front of the bathroom is scary-looking.

Xiaowen’s bodily functions are used in another comedic scene, but these bodily function scenes are not exploitative. The scenes are a little crude, but the purpose is to poke fun at the adult characters who are not very prepared to care of a very young child. The only viewers who might be offended by these bodily function scenes are people who don’t want movies to ever acknowledge that human bodily functions exist for urination and defecation.

Xiaowen has not been given a proper explanation about her grandmother’s death. She thinks San is holding her grandmother captive in a funeral casket. And so, for a good deal of the movie, Xiaowen demands that San give her grandmother back to her. San has no patience or experience in taking care of children, so he gets annoyed and frustrated with Xiaowen, whom he sometimes calls a “little devil” who was sent to torture him.

Eventually, San abruptly tells Xiaowen the truth about her grandmother’s death after he gets tired of her accusing him of kidnapping the grandmother. (This conversation is already shown in one of the trailers for “Lighting Up the Stars.”) San and Xiaowen are outside, and he shows her the chimney of the Mo family crematorium. He then angrily tells Xiaowen that her grandmother was burned up, her body turned into “ash and smoke, drifted up into the sky, and disappeared.”

Xiaowen is understandably devastated by the news, especially since San told her in such a harsh way. But it’s a turning point in the relationship, because Xiaowen doesn’t want to live with her quarelling aunt and uncle. Xiaowen is given the choice to live with her aunt and uncle, or to live with San. She chooses to stay with San, whom she eventually begins to think of as a father figure. None of this is spoiler information, because these plot developments are already revealed in the trailers for “Lighting Up the Stars.”

The movie gets a tad predictable in showing how San eventually grows emotionally attached to Xiaowen. However, what’s less predictable and more realistic about “Lighting Up the Stars” is that the presence of an innocent child like Xiaowen doesn’t automatically erase San’s personal demons. He’s a very troubled person with a violent temper and a lot of emotional baggage.

For example, near the beginning of the movie, one of the first things that San does when he gets out of prison is make an unannounced and uninvited visit to his ex-girlfriend Hai Fei (played by Li Chun’ai), who was in the love triangle that resulted in San assaulting her lover, whose name is Laoliu. San is still very angry and bitter over the breakup with Fei, and he gets aggressive with her (he yells at her and pushes her) when he goes to her home.

Fei is still in a relationship with the Laoliu, who is in the home and sees San assaulting Fei. Laoliu and San then get into a physical fight, which results in Laoliu beating up San, who then leaves the home in humiliated defeat. Fei and Laoliu decide not to have San arrested. They just want him out of their lives. San still struggles with his heartbreak over losing Fei, and this grief comes out when he verbally lashes out at the people who are closest to him.

San also has a love/hate relationship with his father Old Mo. When San was a child, he had an older brother who died tragically. (The details of this death are revealed in the movie.) San feels as if Old Mo still loves the deceased brother more than Old Mo loves San. The movie hints that San’s inferiority complex partially explains why San became a troublemaker later in life, because he felt that he was going to be a disappointment to his family anyway.

San also has mixed feelings about taking over the family’s mortuary/funeral business. In the beginning of the movie, San plans to immediately sell the business. But because San is kind of a screw-up, something happens to the deed paperwork, so San reluctantly stays on to operate the business. Xiaowen ends up affecting San and the business in ways that he does not expect.

One of the best things about “Lighting Up the Stars” is that there isn’t a single scene that looks like a useless “throwaway” scene that was put in the movie just to fill up time. San and Xiaowen go on an emotional journey that is realistically fraught with discomfort, grief and irritation. But there’s also a tenderness to how their family relationship develops, as they both begin to understand that they are emotionally wounded people going through different kinds of emotional pain.

Zhu (as San) and Yang (as Xiaowen) absolutely shine in these roles, which are the heart and soul of “Lighting Up the Stars.” Zhu gives an admirable performance of a hardened ex-con who evolves into someone who finds out that he’s capable of having the type of parental love that he didn’t think he was capable of having. There’s also a subplot with San and his father that is very well-written and acted in a poignant way.

Yang, who is very talented at facial expressions, is an utter delight to watch, since she is the very definition of a “scene stealer.” Only people with the hardest of hearts won’t be charmed by her performance. Xiaowen can sometimes be bratty, but she’s also very smart, loving, and emotionally intelligent. And it’s not in an “only in a movie” way, but in a way where the Xiaowen character is convincing as someone with a fully formed personality.

“Lighting Up the Stars” has several twists and turns (some more unexpected than others) that will hold viewers’ interest for the entire story. The movie also has character details that are noticeable, but the movie doesn’t hit viewers over the head to notice these details. For example, when San and his father sit down, they both have a habit of bending one of their legs to prop up on the seat where they’re sitting. It’s a quirk that Xiaowen notices too, and it’s shown in a touching way at the end of the movie.

Overall, “Lighting Up the Stars” is a rare movie that is a well-made, live-action family film that can appeal to people from a wide variety of age groups and cultures—without being corny, preachy or unrealistic. The tearjerking scenes and the comedic scenes look natural, not manipulative. And the stellar performances by the cast members (especially Zhu and Yang) give “Lighting Up the Stars” an impressive resonance that will stay with viewers long after the movie ends.

China Lion Film Distribution released “Lighting Up the Stars” in select U.S. cinemas on August 5, 2022. The movie was released in China on June 24, 2022.

Review: ‘One Week Friends’ (2022), starring Jinmai Zhao, Lin Yi, Shen Yue and Jiahui Wang

August 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jinmai Zhao, Lin Yi, Shen Yue and Jiahui Wang in “One Week Friends” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

“One Week Friends” (2022)

Directed by Gavin Lin 

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place 2011, in an unnamed city in China, the dramatic film “One Week Friends” has an all-Chinese cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A new transfer student at a high school has difficulty making friends because she says that some of her memories disappear over the weekend.

Culture Audience: “One Week Friends” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the Japanese “One Week Friends” franchise on which this movie remake is based, as well as appeal to anyone who likes melodramatic and hokey movies about teenagers.

Jinmai Zhao and Lin Yi in “One Week Friends” (Photo courtesy of Far East Films)

Based on the “One Week Friends” franchise from Japan, this dramatic remake from China aims to be earnest, but ultimately drowns in its sappiness and over-acted sentimentality. In order for this movie to work well, it had to overcome the far-fetched premise of a teenage girl who has a mysterious amnesia that happens on weekends. Therefore, she forgets certain things that occurred earlier that week.

It’s a very flawed concept because her memory loss only applies to things pertaining to her social life, which would be a big clue to anyone that something’s not quite right with her claims of amnesia. And so, unless this movie is supposed to be science fiction (it’s not), the filmmakers have to find a way to make the story believable in a “real world” setting. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of this version of “One Week Friends” fall short in making the story credible in how characters in the movie easily accept her claims of amnesia.

Directed by Gavin Lin and written by Hermes Lu, “One Week Friends” (which takes place in 2011, in an unnamed city in China) is based on the “One Week Friends” franchise from Japan. The franchise began with Matcha Hazuki’s manga series (which was published from 2011 to 2015), and then it was made into director Shôsuke Murakami’s fairly well-received 2017 drama movie of the same name. The concept is the same in this 2022 remake from China, but the Chinese version of “One Week Friends” pours on the schmaltz and hokiness to an almost irritating degree.

In the 2022 Chinese remake of “One Week Friends,” Lin Xiangzhi (played by Jinmai Zhao) is a quiet and intelligent new transfer student at an unnamed high school. She and her classmates are 15 or 16 years old. Someone who notices her right away in class is “nice guy” Xu Youshu (played by Lin Yi), who feels infatuation at first sight when he sees Lin Xiangzhi.

Xu Youshu’s closest pals are classmates Jiang Wu (played by Jiahui Wang) and Song Xiaonan (played by Shen Yue), who are both more mischievous and extroverted than Xu Youshu. Jiang Wu is the type of guy who likes to play pranks. For example, on Lin Xiangzhi’s first day at this school, Jiang Wu playfully throws a medium-sized sports ball at her in class.

Song Xiaonan is outspoken and has a little bit of a “mean girl” side to her. At first, she feels threatened by Lin Xiangzhi because she thinks Lin Xiangzhi is much prettier and will get more attenton from the boys in school, particularly Jiang Wu. Song Xiao has a crush on Jiang Wu, so she misinterprets his ball-throwing prank as his way of showing Lin Xiangzhi that he’s attracted to Lin Xiangzhi. Therefore, Song Xiaonan isn’t very friendly and welcoming to Lin Xiangzhi during Lin Xiangzhi’s first day at school.

Song Xiaonan starts to be friendly to Lin Xiangzhi when she sees that not only is Lin Xiangzhi socially awkward, but also Jiang Wu and Lin Xiangzhi are not romantically interested in each other. However, Xu Youshu is interested in dating Lin Xiangzhi, and he makes it clear to her that he wants to get to know her better. His courtship gets off to an embarrassing start when he offers Lin Xiangzhi a bottle of orange juice and accidentally spills it on her.

Lin Xiangzhi isn’t just shy. She’s purposely anti-social. She repeatedly turns down Xu Youshu and his pals’ invitations to hang out together. They are confused over why she keeps rejecting their attempts to become friends. They also notice that on Mondays, Lin Xiangzhi acts like she doesn’t remember who they are and what they talked about the previous week.

One day, Lin Xiangzhi explains to the three pals that she has an unusual memory condition where she forgets certain things over the weekend, so she doesn’t bother to try to make friends. Lin Xiangzhi claims she has this amnesia as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder for something she doesn’t want to talk about. Lin Xiangzhi doesn’t have the type of memory loss where she forgets basic things about the world or how to physically function. She forgets things about her personal relationships.

Xu Youshu is immediately accepting of this explanation, and he patiently continues to befriend Lin Xiangzhi. Jiang Wu and Song Xiaonan aren’t as understanding, but they eventually warm up to the idea of trying to become close friends to Lin Xiangzhi. Mainly because of Xu Youshu’s persistence, Lin Xiangzhi opens up and begins to spend some of her free time with these three pals.

Eventually, all four of them become good friends, but the friendship becomes strained every time Lin Xiangzhi goes to school on Monday and doesn’t remember who they are. Xu Youshu is beginning to fall in love with Lin Xiangzhi, so he’s willing to start over and try to jog her memories of what they experienced and said together. To help her out, he writes down their experiences, takes photos and videos, and saves mementos.

The foundation of the story is about Lin Xiangzhi’s amnesia, but the movie never convinces audiences that these teenagers, who have access to the Internet, wouldn’t try to find out more about Lin Xiangzhi on the Internet. They just believe everything that she says. Lin Xiangzhi sometimes forgets things that were taught in school, but not enough where her grades suffer, because apparently she takes good notes in class.

Unrealistically, Lin Xiangzhi’s new friends also don’t seem to notice that the adults around them don’t really mention Lin Xiangzhi’s amnesia. It’s another clue that there’s something “off” about Lin Xiangzhi’s story about having memory loss. Anyone with common sense can see that her amnesia story is too far-fetched. Why can’t these supposedly smart teenagers see it?

It also doesn’t ring true that Xu Youshu, who’s supposely falling in love with Lin Xiangzhi and wants to help her, doesn’t seem interested in talking to any of her family members to find out how he can help until much later than is credible. Lin Xiangzhi’s family situation, which is ignored for most of the movie, would be easier to believe if she were an adult and living on her own. But as an underage teenager, Lin Xiangzhi has to be under some kind of adult supervision at home, which is something the movie only addresses late in the story and in a very contrived way.

Until then, “One Week Friends” becomes a tedious repetition of Lin Xiangzhi hanging out with her three new friends, and then the frustration that follows when she forgets all about it the following week. It should come as no surprise that Lin Xiangzhi does have a big secret that’s related to her memory loss. This secret is also mishandled in a very overwrought way that is meant to pull at viewers’ heartstrings but will more likely have some viewers rolling their eyes at the emotional manipulation of it all.

On the positive side, the cast members aren’t terrible in their performances. They seem to be doing the best they can with a very schmaltzy screenplay. The romance between Xu Youshou and Lin Xiangzhi is actually quite sweet, although very predictable. The movie’s cinematography and production design are adequate, while this version of “One Week Friends” could have used better editing to cut out repetitive scenes. Ultimately, “One Week Friends” is a drama that seems to have good intentions, but the tearjerking moments are very unearned and too mushy for their own good.

Far East Films released “One Week Friends” in select U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022. The movie was released in China on June 18, 2022.

Review: ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin II,’ starring Jing Wu and Jackson Yee

April 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jing Wu, Zhu Yawen and Jackson Yee in “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The Battle at Lake Changjin II”

Directed by Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam

Mandarin, Korean and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Korea, China, Japan and the United States, in December 1950, the action film “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” features a mostly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing military people and politicians involved in the Korean War.

Culture Clash: Two bickering brothers, who are in the China-based People’s Liberation Army, have various battles with each other and military enemies during the Korean War against the United States. 

Culture Audience: “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in violent war movies with amateurish dialogue and stereotypical characters that don’t have much that’s interesting to say.

Steven John Venn in “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The Battle at Lake Changjin II” should have the more accurate title of “The Battle at Lake Changjin: The Deleted Scenes.” That’s because this cash-grab war movie isn’t a true sequel but just a series of scenes that could’ve been in the first movie. And the first movie wasn’t even that great in the first place. And even though “The Battle at Lake Changjin” (which is nearly three hours long) and its sequel “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” (which has a total running time of about two-and-half-hours) are both over-indulgent messes, just because “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” has a shorter time length doesn’t make it better than its predecessor. “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” is worse.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin II” has a nearly identical storyline as its predecessor, because the movie has the same production team as 2021’s “The Battle at Lake Changjin.” Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam directed both movies, while both screenplays were written by Lan Xiaolong and Huang Jianxin. In both movies, the Chinese military group People’s Liberation Army fights against the U.S. military during the Korean War’s Battle at the Chosin Reservoir.

The Army’s 7th Company is led by a courageous and respected commander Wu Qianli (played by Wu Jing), who has a 19-year-old brother named Wu Wanli (played by Jackson Yee) in the company. Wanli enlisted in the Army against Qianli’s wishes. Also returning from the original “Battle at Lake Changjin” movie are the 7th Company’s political instructor Mei Sheng (played by Zhu Yawen), fire platoon leader Yu Congrong (payed by Li Chen), artillery platoon leader Lei Suisheng (played by Hu Jun) and sniper Ping He (played by Elvis Han). Because this is a war movie, not everyone makes it out alive.

And once again, the chief villains of the story are U.S. Marines Major General Oliver P. Smith (played by John F. Cruz) and U.S. Army Commander Douglas MacArthur (played by James Filbird). “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” adds some more American leaders who weren’t in the “The Battle at Lake Changjin.” U.S. president Harry Truman (played by Ben Z Orenstein) appears briefly in a few scenes. Truman, who is depicted as someone who tried to reign in MacArthur, utters this line in one of the scenes: “MacArthur needs to be reminded that no man is bigger than this war.” Lieutenant Colonial Wilber Colbert (played by Steven John Venn) is a stereotype of a ruthless American military leader who thinks Americans are better than anyone else.

This inferior sequel does a few things differently with the characters in the movie, compared to “The Battle at Lake Changjin.” A wounded 7th Company battalion commander named Yang Wenjang (played by Geng Le) gets a little bit of a backstory. Wenjang has a flashback to his life before he was in the war, when he’s seen with his girlfriend. But that barely counts as character development, which is mostly non-existent in this movie.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin II” (also titled “Water Gate Bridge”) has even more over-the-top battle scenes than in “The Battle at Lake Changjin.” Some of the Chinese soldiers almost seem to have superhuman powers, based on the way they can do eye-popping leaps and kicks in the air, where they look like action stuntmen, not realistic soldiers. And sometimes, they’re literally on fire doing it, as there’s more than one sequence where soldiers who are burning up in flames still get things done.

Even though “The Battle at Lake Changjin” and “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” (which were both filmed during the same time period) are among the most expensively produced movies in China’s history, many of the visual effects look cheap and tacky, and the stunts often look sloppy. “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” is even more incoherent than its predecessor.

It isn’t until the last 15 minutes of this three-hour schlockfest that “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” tries to bring some grief-stricken humanity to the story, to show the realistic emotional traumas of war. But by then, it’s too little, too late. The last scene in the movie is overly sentimental and looks very forced, because the sappy tone is very off-balance from the rest of the callous violence film. This final scene looks like it belongs in a completely different movie but was dropped in “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” as a manipulative attempt to get viewers to cry.

The directors of “The Battle at Lake Changjin” movies have said that it’s possible that a six-hour directors’ cut could be released. Two to three hours of watching one of these films is more than enough time wasted. If you just want to turn your brain off and watch shootouts and explosions with mindless dialogue and forgettable characters, then “The Battle at Lake Changjin” movies are for you. If you care about watching more meaningful and authentic movies about real-life wars, your time is better spent on any number of higher-quality choices.

CMC Pictures released “The Battle at Lake Changjin II” in select U.S. cinemas on February 11, 2022. The movie was released in China on February 1, 2022.

Review: ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin,’ starring Jing Wu and Jackson Yee

April 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jackson Yee and Jing Wu in “The Battle at Lake Changjin” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The Battle at Lake Changjin”

Directed by Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam

Mandarin, Korean and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Korea and briefly in China from June to December 1950, the action film “The Battle at Lake Changjin” features a mostly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing military people and politicians involved in the Korean War.

Culture Clash: Two bickering brothers, who are in the China-based People’s Liberation Army, have various battles with each other and military enemies during the Korean War against the United States. 

Culture Audience: “The Battle at Lake Changjin” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in violent war movies with amateurish dialogue and stereotypical characters that don’t have much that’s interesting to say.

James Filbird in “The Battle at Lake Changjin” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The Battle at Lake Changjin” is a very bloated war movie filled with simplistic dialogue, poorly written characters and tedious fight scenes. This repetitive depiction of a crucial battle in the Korean War does not earn its nearly three-hour running time. The film portrays China’s military group the People’s Liberation Army fighting against the U.S. military during the Korean War’s Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Because it’s a scripted movie with some fictional characters, don’t expect it to be entirely accurate to real history.

If you only want to see war movies that have a certain agenda and care more about expensive-looking battle scenes than crafting a well-made war story, then “The Battle at Lake Changjin” might be for you. If you prefer to watch a war movie that places more importance on showing repetitive explosions and violent deaths than placing importance on audiences getting to know the main characters, then “The Battle at Lake Changjin” might be for you. For everyone else, it’s a mind-numbing slog that just looks like a video game with a big movie budget.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin” (directed by Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam) is reportedly one of the most expensively made Chinese movies of all time, with a production budget of $200 million. Most of that money looks like it went into the bombastic battle scenes that pull out every visual-effects trick in the book to make the explosions, battlefield shootouts and killings look very over-the-top. Unfortunately, hardly any of the movie’s budget seems to have been invested in quality screenwriting or acting. The movie’s screenplay (written by Lan Xiaolong and Huang Jianxin) is simply abysmal, while the acting is mediocre at best.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin” attempts to have some meaningful family drama, by having the movie’s two central characters as brothers who often disagree with each other. Older brother Wu Qianli (played by Wu Jing) is commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s 7th Company, where is considered a a respected war hero. However, Qianli bears the burden and guilt over the war death of his older brother Wu Baili, who was killed in combat.

Qianli’s 19-year-old brother Wu Wanli (played by Jackson Yee) admires his older brother Qianli. However, the two brothers clash because Wanli wants to join the People’s Liberation Army, but Qianli doesn’t want that to happen, mainly out of fear that he doesn’t want to lose another family member in war combat. Wanli doesn’t see it that way, because he thinks that Qianli views him as inferior and not brave enough to fight in a war. Therefore, Wanli feels insulted.

Not surprisingly, Wanli ends up secretly joining the Army, much to Qianli’s disapproval. Qianli tells Wanli that he won’t get any special treatment, just because they are brothers. In fact, Qianli goes out of his way to not give Wanli any help or advice, even when other members of the Army bully and tease Wanli because they think Wanli will get nepotism perks. A lot of people in this army doubt that babyfaced Wanli has what it takes to be a tough soldier.

Wanli remains steadfast in his commitment to the Army. And slowsly but surely, he starts to gain respect from his Army peers and Wanli. These supporting characters in the 7th Company aren’t given enough depth in their personalities or development in their story arcs. They include political instructor Mei Sheng (played by Zhu Yawen), fire platoon leader Yu Congrong (payed by Li Chen), artillery platoon leader Lei Suisheng (played by Hu Jun) and sniper Ping He (played by Elvis Han).

Wanli’s first friend in the 7th Company is a fellow teen soldier named Zhang Xiaoshan (played by Shi Pengyuan) young soldier of the 7th Company who befriends Wanli. There’s also a sublot about how one of the People’s Liberation Army also includes Mao Anying (played by Huang Xuan), the eldest son of then-Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong (played by Tang Guoqiang), also known as Chairman Mao, who allowed Anying to join the war with some reluctance. People who know Chinese history already know what Anying’s fate was.

Military officials in this movie are depicted as broad caricatures with hollow personalities that just recite forgettable lines. One of these side characters is Peng Dehuai (played by Zhou Xiaobin), People’s Volunteer Army commander and People’s Revolutionary Military vice chairman. The movie gives the worst jingoistic dialogue to American military officials such as U.S. Marines Major General Oliver P. Smith (played by John F. Cruz) and U.S. Army Commander Douglas MacArthur (played by James Filbird), who’s depicted as a robotic warmonger, who’s often wearing sunglasses and chomping on a pipe.

“The Battle at Lake Changjin” gives very amateurish re-enactments of what behind-the-scenes war strategies might have been. The filmmakers seem to think that throwing in a lot of explosions and gunfire, in addition to showing men constantly shouting at each other, are enough to make a compelling war movie. It’s not. “The Battle at Lake Changjin” is an onslaught of very staged and very loud scenes of destruction that turn into a mishmash of mayhem until its very predictable conclusion.

CMC Pictures released “The Battle at Lang Changjin” in select U.S. cinemas on November 19, 2021. The movie was released in China on September 30, 2021.

Review: ‘Cloudy Mountain’ (2021), starring Yilong Zhu, Zhi-zhong Huang, Shu Chen and Junyan Jiao

November 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

Zhi-zhong Huang and Yilong Zhu in “Cloudy Mountain” (Photo by China Lion Distribution)

“Cloudy Mountain” (2021)

Directed by Li Jun

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in China’s Yunjiang county of the Guizhou province, the action film “Cloudy Mountain” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An estranged father and son must find a way to work together to save a busload of people who are trapped in a cave after a mountain avalanche, earthquake and other catastrophes that happen in a short period of time.

Culture Audience: “Cloudy Mountain” will appeal primarily to people who are interested watching formulaic disaster movies that have a lot of unrealistic action sequences and corny dialogue.

Shu Chen (center) in “Cloudy Mountain” (Photo by China Lion Film Distribution)

“Cloudy Mountain” is a formulaic and forgettable disaster movie where some people get trapped in an avalanche. It’s an apt metaphor for how this action melodrama gets buried by an avalanche of hokey dialogue and cringeworthy clichés. There is absolutely nothing surprising about anything that happens in this movie. It’s bad enough that the movie’s suspense is very phony and forced. It’s even worse that “Cloudy Mountain” gets more and more ridiculous until the movie reaches its very predictable ending.

Directed by Li Jun (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Sha Song), “Cloudy Mountain” also presents many generic characters with little or no backstory or memorable personalities. All of the movie’s cast members give performances that are mediocre or substandard, while the visual effects in “Cloudy Mountain” are adequate. The movie’s story structure is very jumbled, possibly to confuse viewers into thinking that “plot holes” equal “intrigue and mystery.”

“Cloudy Mountain” also has an overload of too many disasters happening in a short period of time, with people being caught off guard. In real life (not in a badly made disaster movie), all of the geological shifts that are depicted would have been detected over time by scientists, not suddenly noticed on the day that the mountain collapses. But there would be no “Cloudy Mountain” movie if it were scientifically accurate.

The movie takes place in China’s southwest region—specifically, Yunjiang county of the Guizhou province. At Yudang Mountain (also known as Mount Yundang), the Yunjiang Tunnel Project has been under construction for 10 years and is about to be completed. Just like many of the mountains in this region, Mount Yundang was created from volcanic formations. And you know what that means for this type of movie.

At the center of the story are geo-engineer Hong Yizhou (played by Yilong Zhu) and his railway construction worker father Hong Yungbing (played by Zhi-zhong Huang), who have had a rocky relationship for quite some time. Yungbing (who is a widower) is part of the China Railway Construction team that has been building the Yunjiang Tunnel Project. Yizhou (who is a bachelor) thinks that this type of construction could disrupt the volatile structure of mountains and potentially be disastrous. Yizhou believes in modern technology that can forecast possible danger that comes when the mountain shifts, while Yungbing doesn’t believe in this technology.

Yizhou, who is in his 20s, has a co-worker named Lu Xiaojin (played by Junyan Jiao), who is around the same age. When an unmarried man and an unmarried woman work together this closely in a disaster movie, the film usually has a contrived plot where the man and the woman have heated disagreements, even though it’s obvious that they’re attracted to each other. As they go through the disaster together, they become closer and fall in love.

A contrived romance is the one cliché for a disaster movie that “Cloudy Mountain” didn’t use, because Lu Xiaojin and Hong Yizhou remain as platonic co-workers throughout the story. When Lu Xiaojin makes a mistake and miscalculates a forecast, she gets yelled at by a supervisor. Hong Yizhou comes to Lu Xiaojin’s defense by saying that the condition of the mountain is always changing.

Yizhou and Lu Xiaojin are not romantically involved with each other, but he does have a love interest. Yizhou has been dating a no-nonsense scientist supervisor named Ding Yajun (played by Shu Chen), who spends most of her screen time at Zi Yakou Command Center, looking tensely at giant video monitors or barking orders to people as the disasters start coming at a rapid pace. And yes, there’s more than one disaster in this atrociously over-the-top movie.

Earthquakes, flooding, mudslides, giant land fissures and landslides that turn into avalanches are just some of the catastrophes that come down hard on this region, which has a population of about 160,000 people. And it all happens in a 48-hour period. “Cloudy Mountain” is supposed to be based on real events, but the movie has so many far-fetched scenarios, it’s hard to believe it was based on any type of reality.

“Cloudy Mountain” is quite muddled in explaining what caused the disasters, but there’s mention of tectonic plates shifting in the Indian Ocean, combined with the work on Yunjiang Tunnel Project. Because in a movie this, even though the construction was going on for 10 years, everything comes crashing down with hardly any advance warning in a matter of hours. One minute people are going about their daily lives. The next minute, the ground cracks open with big holes that cause automobiles to crash, people to fall into crevices on the street, and buildings to topple.

The only indication that a disaster is coming is when Yizhou uses cable wire to climb the mountain, and his computer detection shows “unusual activity.” Apparently, Yizhou is the only person in China who spotted this problem in advance. Predictably, no one listens to him until it’s too late.

Yizhou goes through so many crazy scenarios in this movie that would leave a real person dead or permanently disabled, but he has a superhuman ability to overcome whatever happens. In one scene, his car flips over and crashes into the water. That leads to a flashback that shows how his mother died, which explains why Yizhou and his father don’t have a very good relationship. It should come as no surprise that Yizhou carries around a lot of guilt and shame about his mother’s death.

Meanwhile, his father Yungbing finds himself trapped in a cave with people who crashed in their bus. And lo and behold, somehow Yizhou got himself out of his drowning situation and now he’s in the cave too. It gets dark, and Yizhou tells Yungbing that it’s too dark and cold to try to find their way out of the cave at night. Yungbing vehemently disagrees. The expected father/son bickering ensues.

And did we mention that Ding Yajun and her team have decided the best way to stop a crumbling mountain is to blow part of it up? Does she know that the part of the mountain that will get blown up has a cave where her boyfriend Yizhou and his father Yungbing are trapped? Does anyone care? It’s hard to care about pile-ons of ludicrousness when how it’s all badly staged filler until the movie’s inevitable sappy conclusion.

China Lion Film Distribution released “Cloudy Mountain” in select U.S. cinemas on October 22, 2021. The movie was released in China on September 11, 2021.

Review: ‘My Country, My Parents,’ starring Wu Jing, Leo Wu, Zhang Ziyi, Yuan Jinhui, Xu Zheng, Han Haolin, Shen Teng and Hong Lie

November 14, 2021

by Carla Hay

Hong Lie and Shen Teng (center) in “My Country, My Parents” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“My Country, My Parents”

Directed by Wu Jing, Zhang Ziyi, Xu Zheng and Shen Teng

Mandarin with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in China in 1942 to 1945; 1969; 1978; and the 21st century, the dramatic four-part anthology film “My Country, My Parents” (also titled “My Country, My Family”) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: The movie tells four separate stories of struggles and conflicts over parental issues.

Culture Audience: “My Country, My Parents” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in movies about Chinese culture and about universal issues over parents or guardians who try to do the best they can for their children.

Zhang Ziyi and Yuan Jinhui in “My Country, My Parents” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

The dramatic anthology film “My Country, My Parents” is an uneven but still-interesting film with enough entertaining and emotionally moving moments that outweigh the moments when the movie falters with dull predictability. It’s a movie that is told in four parts (or four short films strung together), each from a different director who stars in each of the four stories. The four stories are “Windriders,” “Poem,” “Ad Man” and “Go Youth.” “My Country, My Parents” (which is also titled “My Country, My Family”) is the follow-up to 2019’s seven-part anthology film “My People, My Country” and 2020’s five-part anthology film “My People, My Homeland.” All of these films were created to put an emphasis on Chinese patriotism through the lens of stories about humanity and personal relationships.

“Windriders” (directed by Wu Jing)

“Windriders” is the first story in “My Country, My Parents.” Taking place from 1942 to 1945, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, it’s exactly what you might expect from a war movie. Wu Jing stars as Ma Renxing, a widower and a commander of the Jizhong Cavalry Regiment. He often clashes with his impulsive and equally stubborn son Ma Chengfeng (played by Leo Wu), who argues with his father, especially about who will get to ride a stallion called Big Boss.

Battle scenes on horseback get a lot of screen time. Although this story throws in some tragedy and sentimentality, “Windriders” puts more priority on the war action. Most viewers won’t find much to emotionally connect with or relate to in this story, unless you’ve had the experience of going into war combat with a parent or child. The filmmaking for this story isn’t bad, but it’s ultimately forgettable.

“Poem” (directed by Zhang Ziyi)

“Poem” takes almost the opposite approach of “Windriders,” by pouring on so many emotions and so much angst, it almost becomes a mini-melodrama. Zhang Ziyi stars as Yu Kaiying, a gunpowder sculptor in 1969. She has gone through two major tragedies within a 10-year period: The biological father of her two children died while serving in the military. He passed away when the kids were too young to remember him. (Du Jiang plays the father in a flashback.) And now, the children’s stepfather Shi Ruhong (played by Huang Xuan), the only father the kids have ever known, has died, also while serving in the military.

In 1969, her two children are a son nicknamed Four Eyes (played by Yuan Jinhui), who is about 7 or 8 years old, and an unnamed daughter (played by Ren Sinuo), who’s about 4 or 5 years old. Yu Kaiying is so devastated by Shi Ruhong’s death that she doesn’t know how to tell her kids, And so, she lies to them by saying that Shi Ruhong is still away from home because of military duties.

However, Four Eyes knows something is wrong because several other children in the neighborhood have missing fathers who disappered during military duty and are presumed dead. He begins to suspect that the only father he’s ever known has met the same fate, and he starts to ask questions. This leads to Yu Kaiying reminiscing about her courtship with Shi Ruhong, who liked to write poems to her.

Everything in “Poem” is bathed in warm-tinted cinematography (in dark gold and tawny), as if to give the movie a romantic glow. However, there are some harsh realities in the story that might be hard for some people to watch. Yu Kaiying is far from being an ideal parent. One day, Four Eyes has a tantrum and yells at her that she’s not a real father because his father used to spank him. She loses her temper and starts spanking Four Eyes until he’s in a sobbing heap. His younger sister witnesses this abuse and starts crying too.

Yu Kaiying shows remorse to her children for losing control of her emotions in such a negative way. The kids forgive her, but some viewers might lose any sympathy for Yu Kaiying during this domestic violence scene. It’s a jarring contrast to all the lovey-dovey courtship scenes in “Poem.” The story concludes by showing Yu Kaiying’s children as adults and what they ended up doing with their lives.

“Ad Man” (directed by Xu Zheng)

“Ad Man,” which takes place in 1978, is a welcome relief from the death and destruction of the previous two stories. The movie is a lighthearted story starring Xu Zheng as Zhao Pingyang, a struggling entrepreneur who decides to film his first TV commercial for his business of selling medicinal wine. He has bought so much wine, that it’s cluttered up his modest home that he shares with his wife Han Jingya (played by Song Jia) and their son Zhao Xiaodong (played by Han Haolin), who’s about 10 or 11 years old.

Zhao Xiaodong is so embarrassed by his father that he lies about what his father does for a living. The movie opens with Zhao Xiaodong giving a presentation in front of other students in a classroom where they have to talk about their fathers’ jobs. Zhao Xiaodong says with false pride that his father has been an architect, furniture maker, and he became the top sales manager at a pharmaceutical company. He also brags that his father predicted that phones without cords would be invented.

In the middle of this presentation, a boy stands up in class and says that Zhao Xiaodong is lying about everything. The boy announces that Zhao Pingyang is really a financially broke “loser” who’s heavily in debt and who used to sell duck eggs in front of the school. Zhao Xiaodong is so angry by what this boy says that he throws a book at him and gets in trouble for it. However, it’s true that Zhao Pingyang has serious financial problems and that he used to sell duck eggs in front of the school.

Zhao Pingyang’s wife Han Jingya is so upset with him for putting the family in a financial mess that she’s on the verge of divorcing him. Zhao Xiaodong makes it clear to his father that he’s also ashamed of him. Partially out of desperation and partially out of inspiration, Zhao Pingyang decides the best way to jumpstart his failing business is to film a TV commercial, which was still rare for small businesses in China in 1978.

Because he’s new to TV advertising, many mistakes are made, resulting in some comedic scenes. Zhao Pingyang ends up hiring a film crew of eccentric people. And eventually, he decides to star in the commercial himself. Is the commercial a success? Does he eventually get the respect of his wife and son? This is a feel-good story, so you can predict the rest.

“Go Youth” (directed by Shen Teng)

The best story in the movie is saved for last. “Go Youth” is a dramedy set in 2020, when a talking male robot (played by Shen Teng) from outer space has been sent to Earth and crash-lands in a field. He gets dismembered in the fall, but he puts himself back together. The robot eventually finds its way to the home of a boy named Xiao Xiao (played by Hong Lie), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Xiao Xiao is the only child of his widow mother Ma Daiyu (played by Ma Li), who spends a lot of time away from home, presumably because she has to work.

Xiao Xiao finds that he can control the robot by telling it what to do. The robot is named Xing Yihao, and he tells Xiao Xiao that he’s from the year 2050. “I’m fresh from the production line,” the robot says to Xiao Xiao. “They brought me here.” (Who are “they”? That question is answered at the end of the film in a delightful plot twist.)

The robot couldn’t have come at a better time in Xiao Xiao’s life. Xiao Xiao is a lonely child who’s being bullied at school by other kids. He can’t really talk about it with his mother, whom Xiao Xiao describes as “a nag.” Because Xing Yihao looks and acts like a real human being, Xiao Xiao pretends that the robot is his new father.

Xiao Xiao’s deceased father was a scientist/researcher whose specialty was artificial intelligence. Xiao Xiao also has an interest in computer-based science, so he easily bonds with the robot. At first, he treats Xing Yihao like a toy, but then he grows fond of the robot and starts treating it like a father figure/friend. A poignant moment happens when Xiao Xiao teaches the robot how to smile.

Xiao Xiao’s mother Ma Daiyu seems to give Xiao Xiao a lot of freedom to do things without adult supervision. She’s not around to see a lot of the shenanigans that Xiao Xiao gets up to with his new companion. Xiao Xiao and Xing Yihao spend a lot of time outdoors, where Xiao Xiao teaches Xing Yihao some things about how to live on Earth.

The robot also happens to have superhuman strength, which comes in handy when Xiao Xiao wants to fend off the school bullies, or to make a big impression in an upcoming athletic competition where fathers and sons pair up in teams. It’s during this athletic competition where Xiao Xiao sees that he and Xing Yih o,make a great team. It gives Xiao Xiao a lot of self-confidence, as well as respect from many of his classmates.

Xiao Xiao gets so emotionally attached to the robot, there’s a cute scene where Xiao Xiao introduces Xing Yihao to his mother as a blind date for her when she’s startled to see the robot for the first time. Xing Yihao is dressed in a spacesuit outfit when Ma Daiyu first sees the robot, so she thinks he’s a man who’s into cosplaying. No romance happens between the mother and the robot, but Xiao Xiao attempting to get his mother to like the robot is a sign that he wants Xing Yihao in his life for the long haul.

However, things don’t go as smoothly as Xiao Xiao would like. The robot keeps talking about having to go back to its place of origin. This kind of talk makes Xiao Xiao sad and confused, so he tries to ignore this robot’s wish to go back to its original home. Eventually, this issue can no longer be ignored, but how everything is resolved is not what a lot of viewers might expect.

“Go Youth” is the best story in this anthology because of how it’s heartwarming without being overly sentimental. It has the right blend of drama and comedy. And most of all, the dynamics between Shen Teng and Hong Lie are very entertaining to watch. Hong Lie is by far the most talented child actor in this anthology. He’s believable in every single scene. And although Shen Teng plays a robot, he brings glimmers of human empathy in the robot to make it an engaging character.

If there’s any noticeable flaw in all of this movie’s anthology stories, it’s in the sexist way that children who are girls are sidelined and not given much to do or say. In every story of this anthology, a male child is the only or main focus of a parent’s attention. Considering that Chinese culture is very patriarchal, it’s not too much of a surprise that male children are given more importance than female children in these stories. However, it’s commendable that a female director got to tell her story in this anthology. It might be gender tokenism to have only one female director out of four directors, but being part of the storytelling is better than being completely excluded.

CMC Pictures released “My Country, My Parents” in select U.S. cinemas on October 8, 2021. The movie was released in China on September 30, 2021.

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