5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Slice of Chinese Culture and History Wrapped in a Wonderfully Engaging Drama,
This review is from: Sunflower (DVD)
In China, there still are deep wounds from the Cultural Revolution that turned entire families topsy turvy. This was the turbulent era in the final years of Mao's life when family and friends were pushed to denounce each other and many of China's brightest and best were tortured and exiled into the countryside to perform manual labor. As families have tried to reassemble themselves in the decades since that violence, however, even traditional ideas about "home" are vanishing.
I know from my own work as a journalist reporting from Asia that, in the absence of other deeper religious practices, the basic commitment to family remains a tap root of spiritual values. But even this tap root winds up severed in these waves of cultural and social change.
That's the context of "Sunflower," a bittersweet drama that runs just over two hours. It's a gorgeously photographed and deeply engaging story starting with the drama of a plucky little boy who has been running wild in the streets of his traditional maze-like neighborhood -- until his stern father suddenly reappears. The boy doesn't realize that his father, once a great artist, has had his dreams dashed by a long exile in the Cultural Revolution. He can't understand why his father's love for him is expressed in an obsessive desire for the little boy to develop his artistic talents.
The first half of the film is this kind of compelling, wonderfully written family drama. Then, director Zhang Yang suddenly jumps forward so that we see this boy as a young man -- falling in love with a beautiful Chinese ice skater. If your heart isn't made of stone, you'll quickly soften to this part of the story, again beautifully photographed -- as we see the young skater through the eyes of this budding artist.
The film's final scenes take us even further into the saga of this scarred, yet spiritually resilient family. I won't spoil the end, but you'll find yourself -- just as I am doing here -- urging friends to see "Sunflower."