After the $90 million flop The Flowers of War (2011), Chinese director Zhang Yimou scales back significantly for this modest period drama about a family torn apart by the Cultural Revolution. Dandan (Zhang Huiwen) is a rigid Maoist preoccupied with her role in a patriotic ballet called “The Red Detachment of Women,” though her dissident father (Chen Daoming) has been sent to a labor camp and her mother (Gong Li) still pines for him. The mother’s loss is so traumatic that when the father is finally released, she’s mentally incapable of recognizing him. The idea of a loved one being erased from memory provides an obvious but still potent metaphor for the social engineering of the revolution, and Zhang—whose own father was labeled a counterrevolutionary and endured a decade of forced labor—heightens its poignance by underplaying its political significance. In Mandarin with subtitles.
PG-13 • 1 hour 51 min • 2015