So Long, My Son

Dì jiǔ tiān cháng

‘Sixth Generation’ director Wang Xiaoshuai offers an absorbing family chronicle that unfolds modern Chinese history with the rich insightfulness of a novel.

Dir Wang Xiaoshuai
Prod Liu Xuan
Scr Wang Xiaoshuai, Ah Mei
With Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei, Ai Liya
UK Distribution Curzon
With English subtitles

Four decades of modern Chinese life are interwoven in this complex ensemble piece from Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle). Spanning the 1980s to the cosmopolitan present, it follows the interconnected fortunes of various characters around a couple, Liyun (Yong Mei) and Yaojun (Wang Jingchun), and their son Liu Xing. In the early 80s, Liyun, a factory worker, becomes pregnant for the second time, falling foul of the national policy of one-child families. Zigzagging between decades, the film shows how political reality affects the fates of the family and the people around them, from factory officials of the 1980s to the newly wealthy of the 21st century. A moving and deeply involving drama of personal and national destinies, this genuinely epic narrative is executed with mesmerising control.

Jonathan Romney