So Long, My Son
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Talent: Wang Jingchun, Mei Yong
Release: 6 December
A rudimentary online search for information on the classics of Asian cinema will throw up the wonderful sweeping epics the likes of Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s masterpiece The City of Sadness, Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite, Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, the list goes on.
And while Wang Xiaoshuai’s latest is somewhat reminiscent of these films – there’s a cross-generational timeline told against the backdrop of the cultural revolution – So Long, My Son feels like it has much more in common with the gentler works of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, Hirokazu Koreeda’s Still Walking or Ozu’s Tokyo Story.
Told over 30 years, So Long, My Son is the story of married couple Liu Yaojun (Jingchun) and Wang Liyun (Yong) and their close relationship with another family, both of whom have sons born on the same day. When tragedy strikes, Yaojun and Liyun relocate to another province and lose all touch with their past life, until their past life comes looking for them. Jumping back and forth in non-linear fashion, much hardship befalls Xiaoshuai’s principle characters but it’s interwoven into a seamless 30-year tapestry full of life, love, happiness and sadness.
There’s a quieter, deeper examination of the closeness and anxiety of the family unit here, reminiscent of Yang and Ozu, as one generation carefully watches and worries over another. The children grow and the adults lives take on a different meaning as they find their roles in their children’s lives subverted. So Long, My Son also shares similarities with Koreeda’s Still Walking; a similar discourse on parental grief and forgiveness.
Both Jingchun as the temperamental husband and Yong as his more pragmatic other half are the heart and soul of the film and rightfully won best actor and actress gongs at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. A modern day Chinese masterpiece, there have been few films of equal stature released this year.
Words: Shane O’Reilly