Synopsis: Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer remembers him.
Release Date: September 25, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Taking place just before and during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the sixties, Coming Home is about a political fugitive named Lu (Daoming Chen from Back to 1942) who is arrested in front of his wife, a teacher named Yu (Hannibal Rising‘s Li Gong), and sent to a prison in the Northwestern part of the country. When he is released from prison three years later, he returns home to find that Yu does not recognize him. She remembers that she has a husband who is in prison, but does not know that Lu is him. With the help of his daughter, Dan Dan (Huiwen Zhang from Forever Young), Lu comes up with plan after plan to get her to remember, but he soon learns that Dan Dan has not been completely honest with him about his wife’s situation.
The screenplay for Coming Home was adapted by Jingzhi Zou (The Grandmaster) from a novel called The Criminal Lu Yanshi by Geling Yan (Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl), but it may as well have been based on a Nicholas Sparks book; it’s that sad and sappy. It’s also very slow. Director Yimou Zhang (Hero) pulls a decent enough story out of the script, turning the words on the page into an extremely visual narrative, but the long stretches of inactivity get to be a tad unbearable.
There are levels to Coming Home that are compelling. Lu’s different methods of trying to jog his wife’s memory, from having her pick him up at the train station to playing piano for her to reading old letters from himself to her, are intriguing to watch, if a bit frustrating when they don’t work. The daughter, Dan Dan, with her less-than-wholesome motives towards her parents, provides an extra element of suspense and surprise. However, it seems as if the story could have been told in about thirty minutes rather than stretching it out to fill almost two hours. There’s a lot of padding in Coming Home, and while some of the imagery and events are interesting, most of it is not.
Coming Home is a classic case of style over substance. Technically, the film is brilliant. The photography, the sound, the music, the acting – all if it is first-rate. It’s just a shame that, as a narrative, Coming Home is just so tedious and dull.
For as slow movie and depressing of a movie as Coming Home is, it looks beautiful. Not beautiful in a pretty way, but beautiful in the capture and manufacture of a distant reality kind of way. Cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao (House of Flying Daggers) paints a desolate portrait of China during the nineteen sixties, with plenty of flat, foggy shots, and tons and tons of rain. The internal scenes are lit with motivated light sources, the luminance coming from obvious places like windows or lamps, giving the film a realistic and organic look. The external sequences of the film are lit with natural light, but it’s the cloud-diffused, dingy natural light of communist China – not exactly Central Park in the fall, but striking nonetheless. Even when the plot of Coming Home starts to drag, there’s still plenty to look at.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Yimou Zhang
- Producer(s): William KongZhao Zhang
- Screenwriter(s): Jingzhi Zou
- Story: Geling Yan
- Cast: Li Gong (Feng Wanyu)Daoming Chen (Lu Yanshi)Huiwen Zhang (Dandan) Tao Guo (Officer Liu)Ni Yan (Officer Li)Chun Li (Cui Meifang)Jia-yi Zhang (Doctor Dai)Peiqi Liu (Officer Liu)Jiali Ding (Mr. Fang’s Wife)Bai Qing Xin (Officer Ballet School)Feng Zu (Officer Deng)Xiaoyi Chen (Gong Suzhen)
- Editor(s): Oliver Farkas
- Cinematographer: Xiaoding Zhao
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Qigang Chen
- Music Performed By: Zhiyi Wang
- Country Of Origin: China