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Sunflower is the story of the Zhang family in Beijing father, mother and son across three decades, centering on the tensions and misunderstandings between father and son. Nine-year-old Xiangyang is having the time of his life, free of adult supervision until the day he meets the father he can hardly remember. Having spent years away, he returns with strong ideas about his son learning to draw. But Xiangyang chafes under his father's constant rules and soon stages his own revolution against the lessons enforced.
Years later, despite his rebellion, Xiangyang has become an accomplished draughtsman. But he still dreams of escaping his father's clutches, having no idea how far his father will go to control his life.
Married and with a burgeoning career as a painter, the worst-ever conflict erupts as Xiangyang informs his parents that they have decided to abort their child. Suddenly, Xiangyang's father disappears. A frantic search finds a message: The time has come to do something for himself.
- Featurette: The Making of Sunflower
- Theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitles
- Enhanced for 16x9 Tvs
- 5.1 Soundtrack
- Scene selections
Explores the tension between tradition and modernity with insight and intimacy. --Jeannette Catsoulis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Joan Chen (is) REMARKABLE. A commanding performance by Sun Haiying. --Derek Elley, VARIETY
A STIRRING and worthwhile experience. --Eric Monder, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Cinematically it's a remarkable triumph. The director uses color themes in a vivid and coherent way, one I can only compare to that of French director Jean Renoir. The settings capture the old courtyards of Beijing at a time when they're rapidly going under demolition, something the film uses. The story covers a tumultuous period but keeps it coherent, breaking it in three episodes: 1976, a time of political and real earthquakes; 1987, as a new Chinese way of life is emerging; 1999, in a modern Beijing that seems so unfamiliar to those who experienced the older period -- including, to some extent, this film's audience.
The director has also elicited marvelous performances from a talented cast, notably Joan Chen and Haiying Sun as mother and father, who mature -- visually and emotionally -- convincingly. He also got a strong performance out of the actors playing the son at ages 9, 19 and 32. That, and an evocative musical score, makes for an emotional experience. The viewer will come to care for these people.
The "making of" extra feature is sparse but has some good insights by the director and producer. The scenes where the director -- who lived through the 1970s -- is showing his modern child actors how to play in the old manner, is something for the film students to admire.
It's a pity this film didn't have a wider theater release, but the DVD is now on hand and deserves a wide audience.
The family endures an earthquake, and mother is all about making a home for her family, attempting to be on the list for an apartment that means resorting to a divorce until they get the apartment. The story jumps to 1987 when Xiangyang meets a beautiful girl and paints her while she skates on the ice. The relationship blooms, as he saves money to leave for Guangzhou with the girl and a friend, but again, father has control over him and forces him to stay to become the painter he never got to be.
As Xiangyang becomes a young man in love, the conflict with his father continues as the parents go as far as insisting when Xiangyang and his, presumably, wife must have a child.
This is a wonderful compassionate film on father and son relationships, a universal theme, when the family imposes the best for their child; and especially, when a parent lives their dream through their child at the price of natural tension, conflict and stress that comes with that. But, it is a film about love; love for your family!
The movie depicts the cultural changes in Beijing, changes in a family's life over thirty years. The 70s scenes were shot in alleys, courtyards, unique housing and here is a nostalgic look at the children, simply at play.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A spectacular story. I use it in teaching Elementary Chinese as part of the cultural content of my course.Published 23 months ago by Dr. Christopher M. Minio
Set in Mao`s China, Zhang Yang`s "Sunflower" is a tender and touching family drama that spans five decades, from 1967 to 2000. Read morePublished on October 5, 2009 by Roland E. Zwick
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