Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Road Home

(WO DE FU QIN MU QIN)

Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
12 to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
1 hr. 29 min.
Year of Release:
1999
Box art for “The Road Home”

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.

Viewer Comments
Positive
Positive—Zhang Yimou’s “The Road Home” is a wonderful drama about romantic love, filial love, duty, and devotion… The cinematography is spectacular, a fact born out by the critical acclaim the film has garnered. It won both the Silver Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival and the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

From a Christian perspective, I believe this acclaim is deserved. Moreover, with one possible exception “The Road Home” is morally superb as well. Some might take issue with the mother’s superstitions, which are probably rooted in Chinese ancestor worship and animism. There is nothing else that I see to cause concern, and this issue could be a good door to a discussion of China, its religious practices, and the need for Christ.

The incipient romance between the narrator’s parents is conveyed via the eyes of the characters; I do not think they even hold hands. The movie does not seek to push the limits of its G rating in the slightest. The positive aspects of the movie are found in the son’s love and respect for his parents, the village’s desire to honor…

The film is less than an hour and a half, and so much of the story is conveyed non-verbally that you do not find yourself spending every moment staring at the subtitles. While I think this is primarily a tale for adults and young adults, if your children are old enough to read, I think they will enjoy “The Road Home”.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jonathan DeMersseman, age 33