Director: Jia Ling
Cast: Jia Ling, Zhang Xiaofei, Sheng Teng, Chen He
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 1 April 2021
Synopsis: In 2001, university student Jia Xiaoling is absolutely shattered after hearing that her mother has passed away. In the midst of suffering an emotional breakdown, Xiaoling is suddenly transported back to 1981 where she meets her young mother, Li Huanying. The two quickly become inseparable, like best friends, and Xiaoling believes that she can help improve her mother’s life. However, she soon finds herself making changes that could prove costly.
After movie ended and the lights came on, this reviewer saw several (female) members of the audience wiping their tears. It is understandable, because we have just seen this tear jerking comedy which took Chinaby storm during the Lunar New Year holiday period.
Released on 12 February in China, the movie made more than 4 billion RMB in just over a week, becoming the most successful film of the season and one of the top five grossing films in Chinese film history. Director Jia Ling, who also stars in the movie, has the honour of being the highest grossing female director of a single film in Chinese box office history. Who would have guessed that the success would be from the comedian’s directorial debut?
Jia, who wrote, directed and took on the leading role, made the film as a tribute to her own mother, who died when she was 19. Taking place in 2001, the protagonist Xiaoling, is a college student who travels back in time to 1981 following her mother’s car accident. Feeling bad that she hasn’t made her mother proud, Xiaoling goes all out to give her mother (in her younger self) a better life in the alternate universe. Soon, Xiaoling begins setting up dates between her mother and the factory manager’s son. While this may steer her mother towards a successful life, Xiaoling may erase her own existence as the man isn’t her father in 2001.
A story about a mother daughter relationship is easy to win viewers’ hearts, and this movie hits all the right spots. The familiar mindset of children living up to parents’ expectations is aptly explored during the poignant conversations between Xiaoling and Huanying. Viewers, especially those who were brought up with traditional Asian values, will identify the dynamics between the two women. Get the tissue papers ready – especially towards the end of the film, where you may find tears rolling down your cheeks.
The 128 minute movie isn’t a tear jerker from beginning to end though. Most part of the film celebrates the cheerfulness and optimism of the characters. It is an attitude that marked the 1980s, where people displayed togetherness and camaraderie.
Being a comedian, Jia effortlessly weaves in several skits which can stand well on their own. The positive energy and humour is good natured and will keep you in high spirits. The ensemble cast which includes Zhang Xiaofei, Sheng Teng and Chen He display natural chemistry with Jia, making the viewing experience a very enjoyable one.
There is a twist at the end of the movie which make you want to tell your mother how much she is cherished. When the film ends with photos of Jia’s mother, as well as some notes on how every mother was a young girl in the past, you’ll know how much your mother has sacrificed for the family. If you happen to be watching this emotionally engaging movie with your mother, this is the moment to give her a hug.
(A emotinal and uplifting tear-jerking comedy that will win your heart)
Review by John Li