So Long, My Son / 地久天长 [dìjiǔtiāncháng] (2019)
Director Wang Xiaoshuai
Screenplay A Mei, Wang Xiaoshuai
Producer Wang Hai, Han Jianv, Yang Wei, Wang Xiaoshuai, Liu Xuan
Cast Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei
The next screening of this film is on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
Two families each have a son born on the same day. Their sons become best friends but the death of one of the sons and a forced abortion before the incident due to China’s one child policy causes a rift between the two families with the pain of that tragedy lasting for decades.
At three hours long, one might hesitate to watch it but there is not a wasted frame in the entire film and it always remains engaging with good pacing. To me, It did not feel like three hours had past as I was engrossed by the story and the characters. The acting is great with lots of subtlety. This is a very naturalistic and realistic film about working class Chinese. There are a few threads that are all mostly resolved with an emotional ending although not all truths are told.
Cinematography is very good. A lot of still shots and slow moving ones but there is quite a bit of variety in the compositions and shots. One shot tracks one character from behind and follows him. In some of the quietly emotional scenes the camera tends to stay somewhat far away. At most it will take a medium shot when character gets angry but close up shots are never used from what I remember.
The sounds are mostly ambient but music soundtracks are used during key emotional moments. Mostly pieces composed from western classical instruments including Auld Lang Syne which features prominently in the early parts of the movie. There’s also a scene where the characters listen to a version of it made with Chinese lyrics which is famous to them. It is moving and evocative of a specific time in their lives.
The story spans decades and mostly progresses forward but often jumps back to the past at key moments, revealing new information. There is no transition or indication of these flashbacks and it ends up being up to the audience member to realize it based on say an establishing shot of the location and/or the different wardrobe of the characters. It’s mostly easy enough to tell but I wish there were less of these flashbacks. The hiding of certain past events in order to bring them up later in the movie isn’t really necessary. The story is engaging by itself without jumping around the timeline. It didn’t impede my enjoyment of the movie but I admit to not quite knowing the exact timeline of certain events.
I give a big recommendation for this movie. The director has made some great films in the past and this is another excellent work from him.
Seen in the theater at festival du nouveau cinema.