Cast: Ai Liya, Du Jiang, Qi Xi, Wang Jingchun, Wang Yuan, Yong Mei
Silver Bear for Best Actor and Best Actress, 2019 Berlin International Film Festival
Spanning nearly four decades after the Cultural Revolution, over a calamitous one-child policy and exponential economic growth, is the story of two families, one dead son, and so many broken hearts. Once close friends, the Lius and the Shens worked in the same factory and saw their sons grow up best buds until the fateful day when the young Liu Xing drowns in a swimming accident. Flashing forward several years, we discover that the Lius have a new son, adopted, also named Liu Xing. Never spoken – in fact, unspeakable–are the impossible shoes the adopted son is now expected to walk in. Meanwhile, the Shens harbor unspeakable secrets too, the kind that gnaw as only the most unthinkable guilt can. Try as they might to leave the past behind, traumas endure, even as hairs grey, families move, and children grow up.
Across three hours, SO LONG, MY SON jumps around in time, often just as we’re starting to settle into the complex, heartbreaking narrative, side-stepping what could otherwise be shocking melodrama. Yet with each leap across the years, motivations, backstories, consequences, and relationships come sharply into focus, each a gut-punch of quiet sorrow. Wang Xiaoshuai reveals through structure what the laconic parents–especially Wang Jingchun and Yong Mei in shattering, award-winning performances–can only suggest with their faces and slowly-hardening body language.
With little fanfare, director Wang Xiaoshaui (Beijing Bicycle) has in recent years shifted into China’s cinematic chronicler of the Cultural Revolution and its reverberations, from 2005’s Shanghai Dreams to 11 Flowers (SDAFF ’12), Red Amnesia, and now SO LONG, MY SON. Formally adventurous, emotionally uncompromising, and politically trenchant, this is Wang Xiaoshuai’s masterpiece.
Co-Presented by Convoy District