Young & Restless in China



Ambrica Prods.

Filmmaker Sue Williams ("China: A Century of Revolution") returns to that country for the subject of her latest effort, "Young & Restless in China," a portrait of nine young people coping with personal and career issues even while the country undergoes profound sociological and economic shifts.

Ironically, the documentary's main theme -- that the problems of the profiled figures will seem all too familiar to Westerners -- is largely what deprives it of its specialness.

Indeed, such figures as the budding entrepreneur looking to start a franchise-style chain of Internet cafes and the environmental lawyer attempting legal action against a power company could well be the subjects of an American docu of the same slant.

The film tracks the struggles of the various figures, who also include a hip-hop artist/DJ and a young woman rebelling against her farmer parents' attempts at an arranged marriage for her, over the course of several years.

While the film certainly is of sociological interest, it's not particularly compelling in purely dramatic terms. The narration by Asian-American actress Ming Wen ("ER") is heavy-handed and lacking in depth, and the decision to employ English voice-overs instead of subtitles for the Chinese language speakers seems misguided.

Still, there's no denying the importance of the subject matter, or the timeliness of the film's release at a time when the country is so prevalent in the news because of its recent crackdown on Tibet and its imminent launch of the summer's highly controversial Olympic Games.