Ash is Purest White / 江湖儿女 (2018)
Director & Screenplay: Jia Zhang-Ke
Cast: Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Zheng Xu
Follows a couple involved in the underworld/jiang hu in the city of DaTong and eventually elsewhere over two decades. The tone of some trailers (like the one below) is quite misleading. This is a pensive, personal type of film without exciting action or high stakes conflict.
This isn’t a plot heavy movie. The pace is relaxed. It can feel a bit slow at times but it never lingers too long on a scene. Events happen without much explanation for them but they don’t feel contrived or forced. The focus is on the characters, specifically the main couple, a woman Qiao (Zhao Tao) and her boyfriend, Bin (Liao Fan) and more so on the former than the latter. They are involved in shady business but what sort of shady business they do is not revealed and simply implied. Their relationship changes over the course of the film and their emotions are often restrained. There’s a bit of a mysterious quality that is compelling rather than frustrating in its lack of specific detail. This relies heavily on good acting and both actors do their jobs well. This is definitely not an overwrought Hong Kong triad love story (as fun as those can be). But the tragedy here as love and jiang hu mix is more due to how the characters react to events and how they continue trying to survive rather than a seemingly inevitable suicide mission or last job set piece.