Review: Coming Home
Director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li are considered by many to be one of the greatest director/actress pairings. Together they have made many films, including Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower. After not working together for nine years, the pair has joined forces once again to bring us the appropriately titled Coming Home.
The film opens during the China’s Cultural Revolution. Lu (Chen Daoming) has spent much of his life in a labor camp, but after escaping seeks to be with his wife Feng (Gong) and daughter (Zhang Huiwen). With the police on his tail, Lu catches eyes with his wife before being captured. When the Cultural Revolution ends, Lu returns home to find his wife with amnesia, waiting for her young husband and not recognizing the old man before her. The devastated Lu is determined to spend time with his wife, even if that means introducing himself as a total stranger.
Zhang’s extended prologue provides much political commentary on China’s dense history, but once Lu is released, Zhang opts for a simple melodrama instead. In classic Sirkian manner, audiences are forced to watch Lu try and interact with his wife; which is often devastating to watch. Gong Li is excellent as the degrading Feng, in a performance that conjures Julie Christie’s from Away from Her. Perhaps it is the subject matter that makes Coming Home feel a bit too familiar at times, but Zhang’s expansive eye makes the film rather unique, at least in a visual sense. While Coming Home is sure to bring out some tears, audiences will be left with a feeling of déjà vu, diminishing the film’s lasting effect.