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Not One Less

4.5 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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(Aug 22, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the crushing poverty of rural China, a young woman is ordered to a remote village to be their substitute teacher. Barely older than her students, the shy girl is charged with keeping the class intact for one month or she won't be paid. Faced with overwhelming family debt, her biggest little troublemaker disappears into the city to find work. The stubborn teacher, however, is determined to follow the boy and bring him back to school. Once in the city, her simple peasant pleas fall on deaf ears, and only when the local television station sympathizes does her search bear fruit.

Zhang Yimou's (Raise the Red Lantern) tale of a plucky adolescent substitute teacher in a rural Chinese village, cast entirely with nonactors and shot on location, is an astute example of censorship politics. Taking on touchy issues with a veneer of can-do spirit and happy-ending fantasy, his film is at once rousing and eye-opening. Wei Minzhi is a stubborn young woman who takes a substitute teaching job in a tiny provincial town because they can't afford anyone else. When one troublemaking boy heads off to the city to help support his starving family, it's not a sense of responsibility that drives her rescue mission, it's money: She won't receive her bonus if any students are missing. Her efforts to raise money for the city trip pulls the class together in a sense of purpose, and even drives the lessons, but when she finally reaches the city she's shocked to discover an urban jungle of lost and runaway kids. Yimou shoots with an easy naturalism that suggests a well-intentioned docudrama in spots, due to narrative contrivances and a few self-conscious performances, but his compromises ultimately make his shocking look at China's rural poverty, adolescent workers, urban juvenile homelessness, and woefully underfunded educational system more potent. In the heat of the film's uplifting climax, the once-mischievous boy pulls the film back down to earth with his reflection on his big-city adventure: "I had to beg for food. I'll never forget that." --Sean Axmaker

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Zhenda Tian, Huike Zhang, Wei Minzhi
  • Directors: Zhang Yimou
  • Producers: Zhao Yu
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Chinese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Chinese
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    General Audience
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 22, 2000
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767853512
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,135 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Not One Less" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Zhang Yimou and his fellow members of the 5 Generation of Chinese Directors have given us such great films. Farewell My Concubine, Blue Kite, and the Emperor and the Assassin.
Personally I enjoy Yimou's films the best. Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Latern, and my favorite To Live. Yimou's films are powerful glimpses into Chinese culture and history. Yimou's directing and the acting of his muse Gong Li made these films so good.
Not One Less is one of his first films without Gong Li. In fact, I do not think any of the actors in the film are professionals. But that does not matter. Not One Less is one of the most powerful and moving films you will ever watch.
Not One Less is the story of rural China, poverty, and education. Without giving too much away NOt One Less is about a young girl who becomes a substitute teacher in a one room school house. She is told she will not get paid if any kids drop out. One kid does and this little girls goes across China to find her.
This movie is more than a story of China. It is a universal story of education, poverty, children, and hope.
I saw three great Chinese films this year: Emperor and the Assassin, King of Masks and Not One Less. I highly recommend all three. Emperor and the Assassin was a historical epic. King of Masks was a heartwarming period piece dealing with the role women and Not One Less.
This is a great film. I recommend getting this film.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The movie seems simple enough. A girl, really nothing more than an older student, is selected to watch over the school while the schoolmaster is away. The teacher is stubborn (if not too smart) and suggles to keep the class intact till the master comes back. When one boy, needing to make money for his family, goes to the big city the sub follows, to try to find him.
The cast is made up of normal people. The students are real students, the shop keepers are real shop keepers and the street bums, for all I know, are real street bums.
At first the film seemed slow. Sometimes the movie tried to be TOO clever and did things that I seemed to see coming a mile away. But it was a trick, like when the kids in Rome hold up a newspaper in front of your face while another tries to pickpocket you. The director is using what seems like formula scenes that any Hollywood hack could write while slowly weaving a truly emotional story that only hits you near the ending. Maybe it is because the cast are NOT actors, or the actions taken by the cast seemed so normal, or the scenes of street life were so REAL. By the end of the movie, when the teacher was on TV asking for the boy to come home, I found myself crying. THAT is not the norm for me.
The movie is like a mass-produced car that some artist has worked on. Outside it seems plain but on the inside it has real power. In some ways more powerful than 'The Road Home'.
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Format: DVD
I have yet to see all of Zhang Yimou's films, but I am beginning to suspect he must be considered among the greatest of all film directors -- ever.

I am sympathetic to the tremendous challenge of making a living by having to continuously churn out creative material, but how some of this man's films compare with other modern fare is absolutely stunning. How this man makes such evocotive films with so little resources can only be fully appreciated when one considers so many other films made with infinite resources that are utterly bereft. If this is not proof of genius in his field, I don't know what might be.

When I first starting watching Zhang's films I became charmed by the lack of predictability. I found myself thinking: Now if this were an American film, this would happen. But something different usually happens -- something so true to life that you become involved with the characters of the story on a deep and satisfying level. I hope he can resist the temptation to immitate his Western peers -- it is they who should immitate him.

This very simply told tale has a large message that I think Zhang wants to tell about his homeland.

In Maoist times, the Chinese people were strongly persuaded that the ideal countryman was a souless, thoughtless, slogan-chanting, agrarian worker who bred the next generation of obeying automatons. The characters of this story are those whose lot in life is to endure the system that regime had wrought, and when our 13 year old heroine journeys to the city, her goal is to retrieve the missing boy for her own narrow purposes.

However, when she is interviewed on television, her humanity, in spite of herself, comes forth.
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By C. Xiao on January 18, 2006
Format: DVD
Cannes International Film Festival snubbed the film because they thought it was Chinese Communist propanda. The Chinese authorities loved the film because they thought the same, all because of the ending.

Nobody seems to realize just how profoundly wrong that opinion is.

The government and society failed these children, their school and frankly all the people living in the rural areas. The enormous gap of wealth between the city dwellers and peasants is obscene.

Early in the movie, the children sing songs of praise to Mao Zhe Dong and the Communisty party, while the viewer is in full view of their abject poverty and abandonment. Is this in praise of the Communists and Mao's vision or against it?

This film also criticizes how the cities (government and people)ignore their poor.

During the travels through the city, neither the peasant teacher nor the student she is searching for recieves any "free" help from the city dwellers. Nobody blinks an eye at the fact that young peasant children wandering alone in the City, trying to survive on what amounts to a 0.25 cents a day. At most, some people give advice, but never time or money. There are no free bowls of noodles, you will understand when you see the film.

Only when a TV Station manager helps do the kids find relief. Even this help is motivated by a combination of generosity, and desire for good TV material.

This is a very subtle yet loud social criticism. The director should be praised for this profound piece of art.
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