This is a documentary which follows Grandma Jiang during her last days before passing away. She lives in a small town called DuJiangYan in Si Chuan province of China which has been chosen for redevelopment. This is no surprise as gentrification is a popular topic for documentaries about China nowadays. I think I’m getting a bit tired of it but in this film this topic serves as a backdrop rather than being the main focus although it likely will be emphasized more in future installments. This is part 1 of a 4 part series.
The director often chooses to linger over scenes for what feels like an uncomfortably, long time as if to emphasize the long moments of loneliness Grandma Jiang feels. Static framing is often employed to let us focus solely on her as she tells bits and pieces about her life. The director himself keeps his presence to a minimum although you hear him ask questions in some sequences and in one scene he makes sure Grandma Jiang doesn’t light up her bed with an errant cigarette. It’s a straight-forward narrative about an old woman who feels neglected by her adult children and is ready to die. We see her passing and the 3 day funeral process that follows.
Viewing this work conjured up thoughts on how elderly people are treated and what it’s like to be facing death as one grows old and the body begins to fail. It’s a universal, human story that really could be set anywhere in the world but at the same time that familiarity risks making the documentary a real snooze-fest. There isn’t really much drama or emotion most of the time and sad to say like Grandma Jiang I was hoping it would end sooner rather than later. The running time is almost two hours and you will feel it. However, this film will likely resonate most with those who have elderly parents or elderly parents themselves who can empathize with Grandma Jiang and appreciate the struggles she has overcome during her life.