Director: Xue Xiaolu
Cast: Huang Bo, Jia Ling, Zhu Yilong, Xu Fan, Gao Yalin, Wu Yanshu, Xu Shaoxiong, Zhou Dongyu
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Released By: Encore Films
Opening Day: 6 January 2022
Synopsis: The Covid-19 Pandemic ravaged Wuhan in the beginning of 2020, the city drastically went into lock-down. Facing unprecedented danger and uncertainty, ordinary people in and out of the city rose from their fears, came together and became volunteers. Embrace Again tells the heart-warming story of these brave men and women, who responded to the disaster in their own unique ways and, through it all, found love and courage to survive and rebuild their lives.
Do we need another Mainland Chinese movie about the heroes behind the COVID-19 outbreak? Obviously we, because the pandemic (or some would say, endemic) is here to stay, and any heartwarming reminder about the people who stood strong against the virus would be welcome.
So here we have this film directed by Xue Xiaolu that takes place in Wuhanduring the early days of the outbreak. While we have seen movies about the healthcare heroes who fought courageously against the virus (cue emotional music, close ups and tears when they sacrifice and fall), this one shines the spotlight on common folks who step up to become volunteers.
In a tried and tested formula, the filmmakers weave four stories into a 125 minute headlined by some of the biggest stars in China. Huang Bo plays a selfless courier who may be neglecting his family, Jia Ling portrays a bubbly plus sized rider who crosses paths with a dashing piano teacher (Zhu Yilong). She also gets to know a chatty nurse intern (Zhou Dongyu) who finds herself smack in the middle of the virus outbreak – but her positive mindset is more than enough to get her through the strenuous challenges.
Then there is a middle aged couple played by Xu Fan and Gao Yalin who find themselves arguing more frequently as the pandemic worsens. They have a daughter (Qiao Xin) who is stranded overseas with her partner (Liu Haoran). Rounding up the ensemble are an elderly retired doctor (Wu Yanshu) and restaurant owner (Xu Shaosiong) who are finding second chances in their lives.
We’ve seen in other movies how characters cross paths, so that the screenplay can conveniently string them together. It’s done here as well, and while it brings no surprises, the encounters take place on the iconic Yigwuzhou Yangtze River Bridge at night in the rain, adding an extra touch of romanticism.
Huang and Jia are undoubtedly the stars of the drama, delivering faultless performances. Huang is the kind of reliable friend and husband you’d want to have, while Jia’s cheerful personality is larger than life as she chats up Zhu in a hilarious setup. Zhou has some memorable scenes with her – see the two women talk about womanhood as they ride on a scooter and you’d wish life is as idealistic as this.
As expected, the most touching story belongs to the aged couple. When Wu first appears, she is like any other naggy grandma. But when we find out that she has been trying to get approval to head back to the hospital to help out, we are heartened by her actions. When we see Xu preparing food and bringing them to the hospital staff, before spending time with Wu across a small barricade, it is a very sweet moment. It sure helps that they are surrounded by peach blossoms – if only real life can be this beautiful.
While this movie doesn’t bring anything new, it is uplifting enough to move your hearts. Besides, it features an impressive ensemble cast who effortlessly deliver moving performances to keep you engaged for two hours.
(Another movie about the COVID-19 pandemic, another chance to be moved by the ordinary people who stepped up to become heroes)
Review by John Li