From the director of The Joy Luck Club
, and based on the best-selling novel, comes a timeless portrait of female friendship. Centuries ago, two “sworn sisters” are isolated by their families, but stay connected through a secret language written in the folds of a white silk fan. Now in modern-day Shanghai, their descendents must draw inspiration from the past as they struggle to maintain their own eternal bond in the face of life’s complications. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in their universal notion of love, hope and friendship.
Joy Luck Club
director Wayne Wang contrasts the lives of two women in the present with two women in the past in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
. Sophia (Gianna Jun), who hails from Korea, enjoys spending time with Nina (Bingbing Li) in 1990s Shanghai, though her uptight stepmother considers the latter a bad influence. Through Sophia's liberal aunt (Vivian Wu), the girls find out about Snow Flower and Lily, two laotongs
, or "sisters for life," from the 1820s (played by the same actresses). Despite their class differences, the Hunan girls bond as they undergo rituals from foot-binding to arranged marriages, but Lily's mother-in-law interferes with their friendship, much like Sophia's stepmother (their contemporary versions squeeze their feet into designer heels). Typhoid and rebellion proceed to ravage their families, just as the stock market crash causes a similar effect centuries later. As adults, Nina and Sophia drift apart after a misunderstanding (concerning Hugh Jackman's nightclub owner), but an accident brings them back together, reflecting the rift that divided the 19th-century friends. Throughout, Wang shifts back and forth between eras, emphasizing the freedoms Chinese women have gained over the years, which brings The Joy Luck Club
to mind, since both movies sprang from novels about female relationships, but Snow Flower
isn't as much of a tearjerker. It's absorbing and attractively shot, but frequently too restrained. Wang directs with compassion, but the film could use more heat. In the featurette, he and author Lisa See talk about the origins of the story. --Kathleen C. Fennessy