So Long, My Son (Dì jiǔ tiān cháng)
Liya Ai, Jiang Du, Zhao-Yan Guo-Zhang, Jingjing Li, Xi Qi
A Sixth-Generation veteran, pioneering director Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle, Shanghai Dreams, In Love We Trust) returns with this magnificent, wrenching drama, which screened in Competition at the Berlinale. It’s an epic family saga spanning the tail-end of the 20th century in China and charting the collective damage, trauma and emotional history of the country’s one-child policy and the Cultural Revolution.
At a reservoir, Yaojun (Wang Jingchun) and Liyun’s (Yong Mei) son drowns after being goaded into swimming by his pal Haohao. The grieving parents leave their factory jobs and move away from their friends, Haohao’s own parents, who have better fortunes in live, becoming wealthy – though Haiyan (Al Liya) harbours further inexpressible remorse over forcing Liyun to abort her second pregnancy in line with the government’s one-child diktat. Years later, after many other events in their entwined histories, Yaojun and Liyun return to visit.
Moving between past and present and told in sweeping tableaux, So Long My Son highlights the terrible human costs of China’s one-child policy and how the lives of individuals were caught up in the gears of a society in the throes of constant dramatic change. Part critique, part melodrama, its considerable emotional power is bolstered by award-winning performances from Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei as an ordinary couple struggling to cope with the forces affecting their lives.