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“Coming Home”: A riveting film about love and family

Chinese director Zhang Yimou returns to his roots with the melodramatic “Coming Home”, a film about love, family and reconciliation.

SINGAPORE: Chinese director Zhang Yimou's latest offering, "Coming Home" may not have a huge cast or tons of special effects, but it has a whole lot of heart.

Set in 70s China, "Coming Home" tells the tale of Lu Yan Shi (Chen Daoming), an anti-establishment professor who is imprisoned during China's Cultural Revolution.

He escapes from custody and tries to reunite with his wife Feng Wan Yu (Gong Li) and daughter, Dan Dan (newcomer Zhang Huiwen), but gets arrested again after being reported by his daughter.

When the Cultural Revolution ends, Lu is released and returns to his wife. Alas, Feng has amnesia and does not recognise him.

Lu then embarks on a quest to reconcile with his daughter, make Feng remember him, and discover just what happened to her in his absence.

While the Cultural Revolution plays a huge part in the story, Zhang Yimou takes care not to dwell on it, and provides just enough background information in the film for the average viewer to understand the story.

Those with even a rudimentary understanding of the Cultural Revolution will be able to enjoy "Coming Home".

"Coming Home" is reminiscent of Zhang's earlier masterpieces like "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern".

It has a moving storyline and contains a lot of human drama.

However, unlike his earlier films, it doesn’t have strong political undertones, and focuses on the universal themes of love, family and reconciliation - perhaps a reflection of how Zhang, whose earlier films examined social practices and the politics of the day, has mellowed over the years.

Zhang deserves praise for fleshing out the relationship between Lu and Feng through endearing scenes like Feng's repeated visits to the train station to await her husband's return, or Lu's hunt for a photograph of them together in a bid to jog her  memory.

Picking Chen to play the lead was also a great choice.

Chen is hailed by many as one of the finest Chinese actors in the business, and he lived up to his reputation in “Coming Home”.

He turned in a nuanced performance and was very natural as Lu. His every glance, every little gesture spoke volumes about his character and  the emotional turmoil Lu felt.

Chen’s excellent acting makes Li’s seem lacklustre in comparison, even though she turned in a fine performance as the emotionally frail Feng.

Zhang Hui Wen holds her own in “Coming Home”, despite being paired up with veteran stars Chen and Li.

With a great cast and a surprisingly good storyline that will tug at audiences' heartstrings, "Coming Home" is well worth a look.

4/5 stars.

“Coming Home” is now showing.

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