Every once in a while the television coughs up a film that isn’t the typical gun toting, bomb exploding, fist punching, blood spewing, revenge extracting exploration of fantasy masculinity (with the token female plot device preferably a young, hot hooker best gagged, unconscious, dead, or in some other way rendered incapable of speech) that Spouse adores. Last night it was Mountains May Depart, which came as a complete surprise. I’d never even heard of it before. But if you like your movies to unfold slowly, coming into focus like an impressionist painting you’re backing away from one tiny step at a time, and don’t mind your heart breaking, this is a film for you. (It’s in Chinese and English and the version I watched was subtitled, which is so much nicer than watching something that has been dubbed.)
As an added bonus, Zhao Tao, the central actress in this film, is fabulous. I could watch her face flitting from expression to expression for hours and hours, it’s so delightful. I think she’s my new favorite actress and the character she plays possibly my new favorite human being.
To sum up: life, which is so exciting and fun when you are young, doesn’t turn out as planned, and, even when it does, doesn’t even remotely live up to your younger you’s hopes and expectations. Or to put it bluntly: middle age sucks, no matter what culture you come from. (Hah, did that ever resonate with me.)
The most shocking/surprising thing about the film for me, aside from how they managed to convincingly use the same adult actors across the characters’ age from 25 years old to 50 years old (although I thought they made Zhao Tao look 50 when she was supposed to be 40 and 60 when she was supposed to be 50), was how they turned a driven young man (who was also a selfish jerk) into exactly the angry, domineering, distant father some of my Asian-American friends had (and hated having and were afraid of) when I was growing up. (On the other hand, it was unfair and not entirely believable that the grownup version of this character was also so pathetic. But that’s about the extent of my quibble.)
Anyway, I thought it was a great movie and even though I feel melancholy today for having watched it, I’d watch it again in a heartbeat.