For its last movie of 2015, the Vernon Film Society has chosen Coming Home, directed by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and starring the incomparable Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha, Farewell My Concubine).
Feng Wanyu (Gong) is a teacher whose husband, Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming), falls afoul of the authorities during China’s Cultural Revolution in the early-1970s. He’s sent away for “re-education,” leaving Feng alone with their only daughter, a spoiled ballet student named Dandan (Zhang Huiwen).
When Lu escapes and attempts to make his way home, Dandan — who had been denied the leading role in a new production due to her father’s branding as an ideological outcast — commits a heartbreaking betrayal.
Years later, when the fractured family has another chance to reunite, tragedy strikes when Feng’s mind begins to fail her, and she refuses to accept her now-liberated husband.
Re-teaming with Zhang after their celebrated collaborations on such classics as Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, and Raise the Red Lantern, the luminous Gong expands her remarkable range even further with her heartbreaking performance as a woman pushed to the brink of mental collapse.
For his part, Zhang masterfully balances intimate drama and political allegory within his deceptively simple story, demonstrating once again that his creative fire remains undiminished.
“Filmmaking doesn’t get more traditional or timeless than Chinese master Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home, a family drama of guilt, love and reconciliation set during the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. Heartbreaking in its depiction of ordinary lives affected by political upheaval, this ode to the fundamental values that survive even under such dire circumstances has an epic gravity that recalls another great historical romance, Doctor Zhivago,” said Maggie Lee, with Variety.
Coming Home screens Monday, Dec. 14 at the Vernon Towne Cinema at the regular times of 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are available one week ahead at the Towne box office and the Bean Scene for $7 (cash only). The film is in Mandarin, with English subtitles.