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我的父親母親 (1999)
The Road Home

Reviewed by: ororama
Date: 03/01/2013

The Road Home is a nostalgic look back at Chinese village life in the 1950s. It appears to subtly criticize the political crackdown which followed the Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom period, but is primarily a love story.

A son returns from the city for his father's funeral, and learns the story of his parents' love affair. Zhang Ziyi does a fine job as the mother in her youth, ably conveying strength and determination, and Zheng Hao is her equal, convincingly conveying idealism and sincerity as a young schoolteacher assigned to a small village where he will spend the rest of his life. Their courtship advances slowly, as she signals her interest by cooking for him and being in places where she can see him as he passes, and he indicates that he shares her feelings by returning to her frequently for his meals, rather than dividing his time equally between the women of the village. Sun Hong-Lei is solid as the dutiful son prepared to honor his mother's devotion to traditional ways, even though he holds more modern views.

The Road Home is an essentially conservative work, telling an old-fashioned love story and honoring traditional Confucian values. Director Zhang Yi-Mou crafts a movie that progresses slowly but is worth the time, capturing the beautiful scenery of rural China and the beautiful spirits of his protagonists.

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/13/2010

"The Road Home" has a lot in its favor: Zhang Yimou lavishing his loving camera work on a new female star; a heart tugging story of love won, lost and won again; Zhang's extraordinary use of a limited palette of colors that makes a glimpse in the distance of a bit or red or pink flash like lightning across the night sky and his uncanny ability to get just the right performance from a varied group of actors. It looks great, has a simple and uncluttered screenplay and even has a happy ending.

It is Zhang Ziyi's first role. She is given real star treatment and shows that she deserves it. Zhang Yimou lights and frames her close-ups and medium shots like they were portraits by Frans Hals. To make sure that no one misses his painterly approach he underlines it when he has the voice over narrator that the first time he went to Di's home and saw her framed in the doorway it was like looking at a figure in a fine painting.

There are two "roads home": one is the road that the coffin bearing the body of Luo Chang Yu, the revered local teacher who died at another village while raising money to rebuild the school. According to ancient traditions, which Zhao Di, his widow, insists must be followed, the coffin must be carried by men walking the entire distance from where he died to his home village. It is a link with the past and with her husband; the superstition to which she clings is that he must be carried or his spirit won't know the way home. The other is the road traveled by Luo Yusheng, his son, when he comes from the city to the tiny village and does honor to the memory of his father and the wishes of his mother.

The arrival of Luo Yusheng, the discussion with the village elders of the burial plans and his coming to terms with his mother and her memories form the first half of a framing story. The second half is the funeral procession itself, the burial and Luo Yusheng realizing how much his father meant to the men and women of the village. While it seemed there wouldn't be enough men to carry the coffin and bearers had to be hired from the next village over 100 of Luo Chang Yu's former students showed up in a snowstorm to accompany him on his final journey.

The story within the frame is the arrival of Luo Chang Yu in the village decades before and the very hesitant but determined courtship between Luo and Zhao Di, considered by all to be the most beautiful girl in the area. It is a lovely story told very well with just enough suspense (will Luo be allowed to stay in the village by his superiors? will Zhao Di ever find the hair-clip she lost, one that he gave her before he left for his appointment in the city?) to keep things going.

Zhang Yimou shows his usual technical mastery--there is a crane shot of Zhang Ziyi running along the side of a hill that begins at the 31:00 mark that goes from "that is a nice shot" to "how did he do that and where did he build the crane platform" in a few seconds.

My difficulty with "The Road Home" is that Zhang Yimou set it in 1958-1960 during the Great Leap Forward. While no one expects movies to be historically accurate neither should they be anachronistic to this extent. The idyllic nameless hamlet where it takes place could not have existed during the economic dislocation and famine of that period. It would be as if an American movie set in Oklahoma in 1933 and missing the Dust Bowl. "Judou", a great movie by Zhang Yimou, sends a big gushy valentine to the justice system in the PRC. "The Road Home" is a much lesser effort but is more pernicious--Judou, as played by Gong Li, is actively engaged in getting redress for her husband who has been injured by a brutish local official. Zhao Di and Luo Chang Yu fall in love during a time of horrible social dislocation and mass death but it never shows up onscreen.

I may completely wrong about this, of course, since Zhang Yimou may have freighted "The Road Home" with symbols and signifiers that a westerner would never understand (and would be missed by the censors) but would be obvious to the Chinese audience.

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 03/09/2006
Summary: An ode to Zhang Ziyi...

A good movie, but not one of Zhang Yimou's best. (See "Raise the Red Lantern" or "Ju Dou" for that.) Still, a fine film. It truly captures that kind of love that is completely understood from first sight, and everything from that point on revolves around the other person. Beautiful cinematography, and a good performance from Zhang Ziyi. Unfortunately, it gets a little too sentimental at parts and there are a bit too many slow-mo and close-ups of Zhang running and generally looking cute and awe-struck. The influence of the movie "Titanic" on the director can also be noticed by the soaring, repetitious score (and the posters on the mother's wall at the film's start). All in all a good movie which will hopefully lead you to more polished films by Zhang Yimou.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 10/25/2004
Summary: not perfect, but unforgettable.

Simply breathtaking. The viewer is impossible to not be emotionally moved. A wonderful showcase of culture and universal love.


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/24/2002
Summary: Lovely Film. Buy.

The Road Home doesn't have a complex story line or an impressive subject. What it does have is beautiful cinematography, great culture, warm direction and superb acting. The music is hypnotising, and the overall atmosphere rivals that of Crouching Tiger which is; really saying something.

Reviewed by: Kyashan
Date: 06/06/2002

Really a MARVELLOUS movie! The story begin with the death of father of Yusheng and the memories of his mother (Zhao Di) in a small village of China where she started a long love story with his future housband Changyu untill the help of Yusheng to prepare the funeral.

This movie contain all part of love: she that for see him go always around the school; the bowl when he eated rice that she want to conserve and also when this is broken, after a her ride for meet him before his back in big city, her blind mother call a man for to repair it; a clasp for hair, present of Changyu, that she lost riding for to meet him and after some days found it; Her flu waiting his return in a storm of snow at dawn, and also with flu she want go to waiting him; she that for love of him, after flu, go to clean all school and to repair the windows...

I can say that is a good movie, but I say lie... this is a marvellous movie, a fantastic movie how I never seen.
A friend advised me about this movie and I don't wanted to see, but when I decided to watch, I was suprised for ALL love that this movie contain and how is explaint.

Surely my rating is 10/10
But I can think 11 about this movie

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/23/2002
Summary: Excellent

Another outstanding film by Zhang Yimou, it really is. If there is one country that can still make real heart warming dramas, it's the mainland. This film is truely outstanding. The idea of switching between colour and black & white in the film depicting the different times as they flash back is great.

If you like drams, this is a must. I'm surprised hardly anyone else has appeared to have seen this, even for the fact that Zhang Zi Yi is in it. Though she was still a new actress at this time, she really seems to be putting her heart into this film, as though she had been in the film industry all her life.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Zhang Yimou's mosty recent,and the movie that marked Zhang Ziyi's emergence as a major star. This is a very quiet, subdued effort that relies on subtle emotions to tell what in the end is a very touching love story.
The movie starts in B/W, in a desolate winter landscape, with no music and stark, cold cinematography: The narrator has returned to his parental village to help bury his father, the late school teacher, who has died in the neighboring town and is now awaiting burial. According to old customs, his mother insists that her husband's coffin be carried by the villagers on foot from the town to his home so that he "may remember and find his way home".

All this turns out to be a narrative frame for the movie's actual story: recalling/showing the courtship/love story between his father as a young man when he first arrived in the village, and his mother as a young girl, played by Zhang Ziyi. Once the movie shifts to this story, the cinematography becomes softer, colors are introduced, as is music, and the season changes to summer. What follows is a touching, bittersweet and very heart-warming narrative completely dominated by Zhang Ziyi, who gives an astounding performance. The camera is clearly in love with her, and she manages to convey all the conflicting emotions of first love with little dialog and without ever touching a falso note. There is no melodrama, and in fact little happens at all. Instead, the movie concentrates on the little things that happen between two people slowly falling in love.

Somewhere along the way, Zhang Yimou can't help subtly adding some levels of symbolism (such as the "road home" motif, that seems to stand for some of the unresolved issues between China's mordern urban reality and its rural past). But none of that is obtrusive, and the love story unfolds at a gingerly pace and in a very satisfying manner. It's a shame to see what Zhang Ziyi can do under the hands of a good director and then to think of her in Rush Hour 2, or that her next American movie will be an Adam Sandler comedy. What a waste of talent...

Strongly recommended. The R1 Columbia DVD is excellent (although some extras like a Commentary track would have been nice).

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 12/15/2000

A celluloid love sonnet, The Road Home displays the further evolution and refinement of Zhang Yimou, already one of cinema’s most evocative poets. It takes a place among the pantheon of his best work, the exquisite historic odes Judou and Raise the Red Lantern, and the present-day “reality-based” Story of Qiuju, and Not One Less.

The Road Home sees a merging of these two strands, dealing with both the present and past in a manner that is a form of realism filtered through four decades of memories. The story and style are simplicity itself, the result not unlike a Chinese painting where the spare brushstrokes through their very restraint create an emotional and visual impact that their more ostentatious counterparts could never hope to achieve.

On the surface, Zhang’s story-telling devices are conventional, particularly the use of voice over narration and adopting “black and white” for the present and “color” for the past. In Zhang’s hands, as expressively lensed by cinematographer Hou Yong, the conventions perfectly suit the narrative by Bao Shi (adapted from his novel).

A businessman returns to his village for the burial of his father, a dedicated teacher much respected in the poor community. His aged mother is adamant that her husband’s funeral must be done in the traditional manner, leading to an extended flashback that takes up nearly two-thirds of the movie’s compact 85-minute running time. The harsh gray Hebei winterscape of the present is transformed into the glorious hues of autumn 1957, when the narrator’s parents—and their love—was young.

The unassuming surface belies a richness and complexity in which Zhang deals with love and death, tradition versus change, and subtly alludes to such non-esoteric issues as politics (the Anti-Rightest Movement of 1957) and education. He also brings to the screen a major new star, Zhang Ziyi. On the strength of her debut here and subsequent knock-out performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (completed after but released in Hong Kong before The Road Home), Zhang Ziyi reveals a screen presence and incandescence on a par with the director’s previous “find”, Gong Li. If The Road Home is a harbinger of future cinematic collaborations, then we have much to look forward to.

4 1/2 Stars

This review is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewer Score: 9