Movie Review: The Road Home

The Road Home

The Road Home A Chinese film with English subtitles

Summary: This is a frame story.

The frame: Man living in the city returns home to his rural mountain village when his father, the school teacher, dies. His mother insists on a traditional funeral, which means they need men to carry the body from the hospital morgue in the city to his grave near the school house in the village.

The inner story: The son recounts the tale of his parents’ courtship.

Positives: Beautiful mountain scenery: aspen forests, green hillsides, open snow-covered meadows. I liked the different culture, the simple feel of their lives. Also, I thought it would be nice to be able to run around in comfortable, practical pants, boots, a colorful jacket, and braided pigtails like she does.

Negatives: The romance, which was focused on the girl. Sad to say, but true. Here it is in a nutshell: Love at first sight and tireless devotion to a man she spoke to but three or four times during the movie. Seriously, the movie was mostly the girl trying to catch a glimpse of the school teacher or waiting for him to return from an unexpected trip to the city (where he was taken for questioning for political reasons).

The girl was lovely. Her devotion admirable, but, in a way, sad and disturbing. One look at the new teacher and she changed her routine just to catch sight or sound of him, walking a longer distance to the old well by the school to collect water, sitting on the hillside to watch him walk students home (did she not have things to do other than follow him around?). She hardly spoke to him, twice I think, before he had to leave. Okay, three times if you count when he told her goodbye. These weren’t real conversations either.

She had little more than him saying goodbye and giving her a hair pin to go on, but she raced across the hillside with a bowl of food trying to catch his departing cart. She stood in the snow on the roadside all day waiting for him to return. And caught fever from it.

In some ways her devotion and disregard for what others might think of her are admirable. She wasn’t too proud to risk him or anyone else finding out she was in love with him before knowing if he returned her affections. But that’s also part of why the movie vexed me. I’d be too embarrassed (or sensible) to go running after anyone like that. To make someone your life, to disregard everything else for him even though you have no reason to think he returns your affections (or even before you’ve met, as in this case) isn’t my idea of romance. There’s no relationship there. Just a lot of one-sided glances and a few words. Devotion and wholehearted loving are great, but a little sense, perspective, and patience are important too. Wait until you have a real relationship with someone. What if he hadn’t liked her–what if she hadn’t been the prettiest girl in the village? What would have happened then? I don’t think she could have handled that.

Conclusion: An interesting, albeit slow story. It’s more for cultural novelty than romance.