Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Sun Honglei, Zheng Hao, Zhao Yuelin, Li Bin | Director: Yimou Zhang | Producers: Yu Zhao, Weiping Zhang | Screenwriter: Shi Bao | Released By: Sony Pictures Classics
Some movies can only be described by superlatives. The best… the sweetest… the noblest. The Chinese-language (subtitled) film “The Road Home” deserves all these and more. It is a story we don’t see much anymore. A wonderful love story about pure affection, the honoring of parents, the power of passion, and the ingenuity of love.
When the story begins, college-educated Yusheng has just found out that his father, Changyu, (Zheng Hao) has died. He returns home to his village to help his grieving mother, Zhao Di (Ziyi Zhang) and to prepare his father’s funeral. He is told, however, that there is a problem. His mother wants to follow the old custom of carrying the deceased back home to be buried. In this custom, the friends of the dead carry the body back home all the while reminding the deceased that this is “the road home.” The trouble, however, is that the village has lost most of its young men to the big cities or to other historical occurrences. It will be hard for the custom to be carried out because there are few young men around to carry Luo’s body back.
“The Road Home” is also a love story told in a long extended flashback. We see how Zhao Di and Luo Changyu met. It is love at first sight for Di and it turns out to be the first “love-match” in a village where all marriages are arranged. We see how Di attracted Changyu’s attention and wooed him, longed for him, lost him a little while, almost died for love of him and then finally received him back into her loving arms forever. In our day, girls are all too aware of how to get the object of their affection to notice them. To some women, this generally means showing their sexual side. Remember how a typical woman of our times… Monica Lewinsky… described how she got President Clinton’s attention by being subtle and pulling at her thong? But in this film, we see a true mistress of the feminine wile—I mean this in a good way. Di knows how to bide her time at a roadside, cook the best dishes, smile just so, use all her arts and crafts to get her guy. She has to achieve all she desires while being coy.
The movie is wholesome, passionate, and moral. It challenges us to honor our past customs, and our elders. It also bewails the loss of many old crafts, customs, and rituals. People will leave this film remembering all the old times and old customs now forgotten. They will again remember what it was like to be a teenager and to be madly in love. There is no nudity, violence, or profanity in this film. Women, bring your hankies.