After the epic Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Chinese director Zhang Yimou returns to a smaller scale with this stilted drama of fathers and sons. An elderly Japanese man (Ken Takakura) learns that his estranged son is dying of liver cancer and, after being refused an audience by the young man, embarks on an elaborate mission of reconciliation: armed with a video camera, he travels to a remote province in southern China to record a musical message from a folk-opera singer the son admired. The basic impulse that sets the story in motion is so contrived that the gentle comedy and visual poetry of the father’s mountain journey seem imposed from without, the tragic climax both overdetermined and underfelt. In Chinese and Japanese with subtitles. PG, 107 min.