So…this poster makes the movie sound like some erotic movie. It is not. It is a very talky drama.
Free on Amazon Prime. Approximately 116 minutes.
Young Hehe has been suffering from fevers and it has recently come back with a vengeance. Deciding that her condition is just getting worse, her parents take her to the hospital. It is not good. Hehe has cancer and will need chemotherapy. And she requires something else. Something from her parents. Her father, Lao Xie, suggests that her mother, Mei Zhu, call someone. A specific someone. But who?
Lao Xie is referring to Xiao Lu, Mei Zhu’s ex-husband. Xiao Lu comes over to meet them and look at their sleeping daughter. His daughter. Mei Zhu tells him that Hehe needs a bone marrow transplant or she might not live more than three years. So Mei Zhu asks him to provide a blood sample to the hospital, saying that she already has done so. He agrees.
Unfortunately, it appears that neither sample matches and the initial treatment did not work. The doctors are looking elsewhere for a match for the bone marrow transplant. Siblings would be the best bet, but one-child families will have a much more difficult time. The doctors try to reassure Mei Zhu that they will eventually be able to find an appropriate donor and perform the operation, but she comes away with a different message: she and Xiao Lu will have to have another child.
Xiao Lu is very reluctant regarding this. He had already been spending more time with Mei Zhu than he had expected to. He has since remarried, as she had. His wife, Dong Fan, has wanted a child for a while now. And he has insisted that their lives are too busy now to raise a child. Impregnating another woman would mess everything up. Mei Zhu says that she will be Dong Fan to allow this and promise to repay her over several lifetimes if this works. Xiao Lu insists that Mei Zhu think about this further, but she has made up her mind.
As for Lao Xie, he is rather quiet when Mei Zhu eventually tells him of the idea. But he had also wanted a child, a biological one. However, he loves Hehe like his own, so he reluctantly relents. As expected, Dong Fan is not on board with this plan at all, saying that other people do not resort to such measures when treating cancer. When Xia Lu tells Mei Zhu about this, she dismisses Dong Fan’s prohibition. This has to be done.
This movie is straight drama. Very few bells or whistles, and it focuses right there on the problem: one sick child whose treatment may destroy two marriages. Of course, there are plenty of elements that surround it. All of the medical situations that drive the plot and the backstory are beyond my knowledge, so it is possible that the entire premise of this movie is ridiculously manipulative. Still, being rather ignorant about any of it, it worked for me. I suppose that it helped that the movie let the situations and characters themselves provide the tearjerks and kept the film techniques to a minimum.
There is also, of course, the unspoken issue of the One Child Policy, which was still in place at the time that this film was released. Granted, there were possible exceptions to be made for various circumstances, such as if the one child is a daughter. Still, a married couple would have to be able to state their case clearly as to why they wanted a second child. And as for re-married couples? I am sure that it would have been a mess. The movie hints at the various social and personal implications of this second child and the possibility of divorce is brought up again.
One thing that I noticed only upon second viewing was the relationship between the four adult characters and their individual jobs. Mei Zhu works as a real estate agent, but seems to be stuck on this one apartment that clients keep on rejecting for one reason or another. Of course that relates to what is going on with her daughter, but also with something else in the recent past. The fact that the apartment number is the year that this film was made (and maybe was supposed to be released) has to mean something. And how it shows up at the end of the movie has to be a metaphor for how Mei Zhu approaches things, as well as maybe show her somewhat awkward resourcefulness.
I am pretty sure that it is never stated what Lao Xie does, but he says fairly early on in the movie that he has taken time off to take care of Hehe. His comparatively quiet and passive nature, along with his almost instinctively doing household chores may make it seem like his job is acting as Hehe’s nurturer, even if they are not biologically related. This becomes a bit of a sticking point when he reminds Mei Zhu that he had wanted a biological child as well. The movie itself does not question his masculinity, but certain less sympathetic viewers might.
Dong Fan works as flight attendant, who comes and goes like a force of nature. She is more free than the other main characters, but it is that freedom that makes it difficult to appreciate how trapped the others are. She claims that she would be willing to give up the job to raise a child, but is always kept at a distance from the problem. She is not completely unsympathetic to Hehe’s plight or to Mei Zhu’s desperation, but that is not part of the story that she wants for herself. Dong Fan struggles to not be the bad guy in this situation that she cannot help see as a slap in the face. It is notable that, even though both Dong Fan and Mei Zhu consider meeting each other, they never do.
Xiao Lu works in construction, specifically as a go-between between the clients and the workers. And there is a major disagreement regarding payment that has people yelling at him. He can yell back and place the responsibility upon the other party, but it is less easy when a child’s life and his own future is at stake. He seems to be trapped between the two assertive characters of his wife and ex-wife, who both seem to resent him for his stance on children. It is not explicitly stated if he had divorced Mei Zhu because he did not want to take responsibility in raising a child, but it is explicitly stated only twice in the movie that he is Hehe’s father.
This is a rather straightforward movie about people struggling to do the right thing at the possible expense of who they are. If you are in the mood for something like that, then this may be for you.
WTF ASIA 35: Dharavi (India: 1993, Approx. 116 minutes).
Dagnabbit, Amazon. Well, it’s on Einthusan.
WTF ASIA 36: One Million Yen Girl (Japan: 2008, Approx. 121 minutes).