Director: Zhang Ziyi, Wu Jing, Shen Teng, Xu Zheng
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Wu Jing, Shen Teng, Xu Zheng, Song Jia, Kitty Zhang, Wan Qian, Huang Xuan, Ma Li, Zhang Tianai, Li Guangjie, Chen Daoming, Du Jiang, Peng Yuchang, Allen
Runtime: 2 hrs 36 mins
Released By: Clover Films
Opening Day: 8 October 2021
Synopsis: Actress Zhang Ziyi, actor-and-director Wu Jing, comedian Shen Teng, and actor-and-director Xu Zheng come together to direct four short films as part of a new anthology drama paying tribute to China’s families.
Following the beautifully patriotic My People, My Country (2019) and My People, My Homeland (2020), Chinagives us the third movie in the National Day trilogy that is equally magnificent. Released in its home country to coincide with the week long National Day holiday, it was naturally a hit, earning a massive 940 million yuan at the box office.
With the Communist Party of China’s centennial celebrations, it is most apt that this four film containing four stories pays homage to past generations who have contributed to China's revolution and development. It sure helps to have four famous Chinese stars Wu Jing, Zhang Ziyi, Xu Zheng and Shen Teng to direct the four segments.
The first story directed by Wu takes place during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. You can expect quite a bit of violence and blood as soldiers and civilians fought as the Jizhong Cavalry Regiment. You can also expect lives to be sacrificed as loyal individuals did what they had to do to protect the masses. This is the signature action piece that will get your adrenaline rush going. Wu does a decent job at portraying a father and son relationship (Leo Wu channels genuine wide eyed wonder as Wu’s son), and excels in bringing out the brutality of war. The battle sequences are a sight to behold.
The second segment is a tearjerker. Directed by Zhang, it is a story is centred on a family when Chinalaunched their first man made satellite in 1969. The parents are played by Huang Xuan (delivering an underrated but heartbreaking performance) and Zhang, and they do a brilliant job in bringing out the hard work and selfless dedication towards aerospace while trying their best to provide for their two children. Yuan Jinhui and Ren Sinuo, the two young actors who play their kids, are a joy to watch on screen. Veteran actor Chen Daoming also makes a cameo appearance.
Xu directs the third episode, which is a clear winner in terms of storytelling. The protagonist is a seemingly glib tongued sales director in a Traditional Chinese Medicine factory who just cannot get anything right. His son is often put in a spot, and as the story progresses, it becomes an inspiring tale of the birth of China’s first TV commercial. Just like how the medium was a new wave of innovation, this segment is creatively executed and every minute is gold. Xu takes on the role of the hardworking father who is always open to trying new ideas, while Han Haolin (who has also appeared in the previous two films in the trilogy) is adorable as his son. Zhang Yimou takes on a cameo role and gets to deliver a spot on line: “I have directed movies before!"
The last story helmed by Shen sees a robot travelling from 2050 to 2021. He meets a boy with scientific aspirations and they bond quickly. The result is an often funny and always moving tale of how one continues to chase his dreams despite challenges. Shen is comical as the robot, while Wu Yuhan is as real as any kid can get as the inventive child. Ma Li has a bit role as Wu’s mother, while another veteran actor Li Xuejian shows up at the end of this episode.
It is evident that the filmmakers went all out to produce a relatable and stirring movie to instill pride in the viewers at home. It clearly works, given the impressive box office figures and positive reviews. This is also successful storytelling for viewers who are not from China, as the themes are universal and the performances from its ensemble cast are powerful.
(The third movie of China's National Day trilogy is just as emotionally stirring, and explores universal themes that will tug at your heartstrings)
Review by John Li