Coming Home review: Zhang Yimou's brilliant take on love and sacrifice

  • Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times, Panaji
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2014 16:45 IST

A sour political relationship has stopped the exchange of films between India and China for a long time. All that might just change and one sign could be the fact that China has been selected as the focus country at the ongoing 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa. Among the wealth of Chinese cinema, come the films of master director Zhang Yimou, whose works are also getting showcased under the retrospective section.

His film Coming Home (Gui Lai) was shown at IFFI 2014.

Coming Home might come across as a love story but it's not just a love story. The story is set during and after the Cultural Revolution of China which changed the Chinese perspective towards the concepts of development, society and polity forever.

Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) is a political prisoner who escapes from the prison to meet his family which consists of his wife Feng Wanyu (Gong Li) and young daughter Dandan (Zhang Huiwen). He has been in the prison for many years and, thus, he never got a chance to look after his daughter who wants to serve the party and country in any manner possible. She believes that her father has committed a mistake by breaking the prison and she reports about his whereabouts to the local administration. Feng Wanyu protests his re-arrest and gets beaten by the police in return and that results in amnesia.

Lu was released during the later days of the Cultural Revolution but he returns home to find that his wife doesn't remember him anymore. But, his love is of a determined soul and thus he starts trying everything possible to win back the love of his life.

It's a beautiful film to say the least, one that will touch your heart. It celebrates that old fashioned idealism in love.

The pace of the narrative slowly captivates your imagination and takes you through an era which was not known for giving up on partners so easily.

It's a multi-layered story. Though some of you may find it biased towards the communist regime of China but it does try to bring out different sides of the coin.

It talks about the atrocities done in the name of a just government and how its officers used the state's prerogative for their personal settlements - how the state empowered the officers who were corrupt and ruthless. But, then there is another side to it as well.

Coming Home also talks about the poetic justice; however its poetic justice, a thing not delivered by the state. Who executed it could be a different question.

Ultimately, it remains a passionate love story between two people who are not young anymore and are struggling due to their individual losses. How love and patience become one is the core of the story.

Director Zhang Yimou, mostly known for his 2002 hit Hero in India, emerges as the master storyteller, who knows the essence of love, sacrifice and complexity of relationships. Those who have seen The Notebook may find Coming Home a bit advanced in its approach. Truly, a world-class film.

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