EmptyHawaii International Film Festival
HONOLULU -- Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yang continues in the humanist vein of his features "Sunflower" and "Shower" with "Getting Home," an amiably satirical road comedy that also turns a comical eye on a variety of social issues facing China today.
Given the film's universally resonant, gentle humor and Zhang's successful track record, "Getting Home" seems destined for a specialty pickup after an award-winning festival run.
When middle-age construction laborer Liu (Hong Qiwen) unexpectedly dies in Shenzhen from overwork and excessive drinking, his friend and co-worker Zhao (Zhao Benshan) vows to fulfill his pledge to transport the corpse thousands of miles back to Liu's hometown of Chongqing for a decent burial. Problem is, Zhao doesn't have much money or many options for transportation. When he can't get a bus or hitch a ride, he trudges along carrying Liu's short, slight body on his back or else finds more inventive means of transportation such as a farmer's cart or rolling Liu along inside a massive tractor tire.
Zhao inevitably meets a steady stream of memorable characters on his semi-absurd road trip. A heartbroken truck driver (Hu Jun) heading north toward the Three Gorges region finds Zhao a sympathetic ear for his story of woe. A run-in with a wealthy, lonely man (Wu Ma) rehearsing his own funeral reminds Zhao of the value of friends and family. His encounter with a woman (Song Dandan) who sells her blood to help put her son through college reawakens the possibility of romance.
Each encounter enriches Zhao's journey, even if Zhang's premise might require a suspension of disbelief concerning the advancing state of Liu's corpse. As he progresses toward fulfilling his commitment to Liu, Zhao serves as the catalyst for an increasingly familiar clash of values between tradition and modernity, selfishness and loyalty, urban and rural that's sweeping through contemporary China.
Although some of the situations barely skirt predictability, popular stage comic Zhao's lead performance anchors the narrative with sympathetic humor, despite the script's occasional tendency toward sentimentality. Zhang's brisk direction leavens "Getting Home" with plenty of physical comedy, distinctively lensed by cinematographers Yu Lik-wai and Lai Yiu-fai.
Director: Zhang Yang
Screenwriters: Zhang Yang, Wang Yao
Producers: Stanley Tong, Er Yong, Zhang Yang, Harvey Wong, Liu Qiang
Directors of photography: Yu Lik-wai, Lai Yiu-fai
Production designer: An Bin
Music: Dou Peng
Costume designer: He Chongnan
Editor: Yang Hongyu
Zhao: Zhao Benshan
Liu: Hong Qiwen
Lovelorn Trucker: Hu Jun
Lonely Rich Man: Wu Ma
Scavenger Woman: Song Dandan
Running time -- 97 minutes
No MPAA rating