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TIFF 2014 Review: Coming Home

Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home is in many ways a quintessentially Chinese film. Based upon the novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi by Geling Yan, the film surprisingly seems almost like a Hollywood romantic comedy. Make no mistake though, this story about a family in which the father Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) is forcibly removed from his wife Feng Wanyu (frequent Yimou leading lady Gong Li) and immature daughter and aspiring ballerina Dandan (Huiwen Zhang), for being disloyal to the party during the height of the Cultural Revolution, is fascinating, in part because it is not.

We remain in the presence of Dandan and her mother, (whom is addressed by Lu as “Yu”) during Lu’s banishment, and we are only able to see Lu as Yu views him, through the fog of amnesia. We spend much of the movie waiting for Lu to regain her memory by seeing her husband for who he is.

Interestingly, such a scene presents itself, wherein Lu disguises himself as a piano tuner, and plays a heartbreaking piece of music for Yu. The audience stays breathless as Yu turns and starts to recognize Lu as himself, not as “Feng”. Coming Home however, does not grant us Yu’s moment of absolution the way that a Hollywood film might.

This film is elegantly shot, in muted shades of grey, and the performance by Gong Li is masterful. This film is slow, and Coming Home may require every last bit of patience.

[star v=3]