Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Gui Lai
China, 2014. Le Vision Pictures, LeVision Pictures. Screenplay by Jingzhi Zou, based on the novel by Geling Yan. Cinematography by Xiaoding Zhao. Produced by Karen Fu, William Kong, Zhao Zhang. Music by Qigang Chen. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Sentimentality should always be done this well. A professor sent into exile during the Cultural Revolution is finally allowed to go home two decades after being parted from his wife and daughter, but what he comes back to is only an extension of the tragedy he has already suffered and not a reversal of it. His wife (Li Gong) has suffered a trauma that has left her memory blank in spots, which he realizes to his horror has prevented her from recognizing him when he comes to her door. His daughter has a dark secret from her days as a petty teenager when she towed the party line, which has caused a rift with her mother and is at the heart of the damage done to her parents’ relationship. One attempt after the other is made by Lu to get Yu to acknowledge him, even fake train trips in which he arrives at the station to greet her, but she either cannot see him or mistakes him for someone else. Where this goes is towards a heartfelt, tragic tale that tells us that sometimes, when too much has happened, we can never go home, and it is achieved with exceptional grace by Zhang Yimou’s delicate-to-perfection guidance and the subtle, incredibly gorgeous performance by Li in the lead.