One of the more impactful legacies of the China’s Communist rule in the late 20thCentury is the infamous One Child Policy. Designed to cull population growth, families were disincentivized, and in some cases forced, to avoid having a second child. It is only recently that restrictions have been relaxed.
So Long, My Son explicitly aims to grapple with that legacy. Sixth generation Chinese auteur Wang Xiaoshuai’s new epic explores the trajectory of one family and their friends spanning the four decades of this policy. When their son Liu Xing tragically dies at the age of twelve, parents Liu Yaojun (Yong Mei) and Wang Liyun (Wang Jingchung) must reconcile with the loss.
Wang’s greatest strength is his temporally disjunctive narrative, which bounces from moment-to-moment across time periods with little regard for the audience’s ability to keep up. This elliptical story strategy forces the audience to stay on its toes, and to piece together the clues through the vastly changing social and economic conditions. The best comparison point I can make is Terrence Davies Distant Voices, Still Lives. Both films are preoccupied with portraying the life of a family amidst a changing backdrop.
Wang gets phenomenal performances out of Yong Mei and Wang Jinghchung. Both are fully realized as struggling parents. Some of the film’s events are truly heartbreaking. This is a long one, over three full hours to be precise, but a film that I believe fully justifies its sense of scope and scale.
- Release Date: 9/5/2019