HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Coming Home
HTS Overall Score:80
Yimou Zhang is usually known for the bizarre and the more action oriented films of his past, such as “Curse of the Golden Flower”, or “House of Flying Daggers”. However after much time in the land of Wu Xian, the eclectic director comes back home to a much more intimated and melodramatic take on true love between people of illnesses. Reunited with longtime associate, Gong Li, Zhang takes a loving and slow paced look at a man and his wife, reunited after decades spent apart for a political crime (that remains unmentioned in the script). However, this is not your typical reuniting and due to the fact that Yimou Zhang has a tendency to focus on the nitty gritty details, a slightly strange tale due to the circumstances. There are a few flaws in the time jumps, and a sense of predictability for one simple part of the movie, but other than that “Coming Home” is bittersweet love store that that’s sense of earnest sweetness overpowers the slightly sad “bitter” part of the equation.
The film originally was meant to be a direct adaptation of the novel “The Criminal Lu Yanshi” by Jingzhi Zou, but the current Chinese administration would not allow it due to it looking poorly on the state. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, taking that in mind Yimou Zhang starts right after the novel ends, and goes into a completely original narrative that keeps with the original tone and feel of the novel, expanding on what happens AFTER his famous incarceration. We meet Lu Yanshi (Daoming Chen) just after he has broken out of a political prison for an unknown crime against the state (the film takes no effort into the reason behind his incarceration, but it’s just known that he WAS a criminal in the state’s political eye), and he is trying to meet up with his wife, Feng Wangyu (Gong Li) and his daughter Dandan (Huiwen Zhang). However as much as Wangyu wants to meet her husband, she has the government on her back spying on her. With one last chance left, Wangyu escapes to the train station to run away with Lu only to have their own daughter turn in the location of the meet, causing Lu to go back to prison and leaving Wangyu with a broken heart.
Years later the Cultural Revolution starts, and soon enough Lu is allowed to leave prison after some power shifts happen. Returning home with great excitement, Lu finds out that everything is not as he left it. Dandan has been exiled from the family home and Wangyu is left with a sort of amnesia that keeps her from remembering everything. She can function in most day to day activities, but she only remembers a fraction of her past and she can’t recognize her own husband standing in front of her. Desiring nothing more than to be in his wife’s life and somehow prove to her that he IS her husband, Lu tries to trigger her memory in any way that he can. Every day he comes to her door with something new. Offering to read her letters, picking up her mail, tuning her piano and playing her favorite song, all for the CHANCE that she will have a flicker of remembrance of who they once were to each other.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66722[/img]“Coming Home” is less a story about war, or about a criminal coming home. Instead it’s a sweet love story about what happens when someone truly loves someone, even when that person is LITERALLY incapable of loving said person back. It’s almost a parallel experience for those who are dealing with a spouse engulfed in the terror of Alzheimer’s disease. Coming back day after day to care for the love of their life, even when that person has no clue who they are. It’s immensely saddening, yet heartwarming and emotionally uplifting. The film keeps a very similar tone to the novel, and I think that Jingzhi Zou would be proud at the work that has been put into the film. What really makes the movie work is the chemistry between Gong Li’s Wangyu and Daoming Chen’s Lu Yanshi. Emotions are laid bare on the face even when words are never spoken, and the incredible Gong Li is able to make a very believable switch from adoring wife to unresponsive mentally ill person. Like I said, it’s heart breaking, but ever so sweet and by the time the credits roll you’re no longer looking for that moment when she recognizes Lu. Instead you’re basking in the warmth of true dedication and love as Lu proves by his actions that it doesn’t matter what the person looks like, or if they have the capability to love you back, but true love is DOING.
There’s a few ripples in the plot, but they are relatively minor. The predictability of the “close encounters” that happen between Wangyu and Lu are seen a mile away as unrealistic. Mainly due to the fact that you KNOW they aren’t going to recognize each other when there is so much time left on the clock. However, the ending realization of their relationship makes it little LESS predictable, although still not completely perfect. The second and final quibble was that some of the leaps in time seemed to transition a bit awkwardly. It was as if the editor couldn’t decide how and where to shift time in the film so he used an abrupt method that takes some time getting used to.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66730[/img]Shot in 2.39:1 scope, the AVC encoded Blu-ray manages to look very pleasing despite the rather desaturated tone to the films visual side. Colors are rather bland and the overall film looks a bit grey with soft earthy bits seeping through. This is definitely intentional, as the last 5 minutes of the movie brighten up as they are in the modern day time period and the whites, blues, blacks and reds look so much more saturated and vibrant. Fine detail is excellent throughout, allowing you to see every fiber and threat on the worn clothing of Lu, as well as the smudges of dirt adorning his face during the initial escape. Blacks are good, but not great, as the desaturated color grading gives an ever so slightly washed out look to the darker scenes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66738[/img]I was actually REALLY blown away by “Coming Home’s” 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in its original Mandarin. Being a drama I expected a nice clean, but front heavy, experience. As much as there is a lot of dialog in the front three speakers, the surrounds are always awash with tons of activity. Just listen to the opening scene where Lu Yanshi is running across the rooftop with rain pattering around his splashing feet, or the sounds of the train station that Wangyu visits every day and the directionality changes that occur there. The hustle and bustle of the city streets envelopes the listener with a myriad of street noises, and even the simple sounds of the apartment shows incredibly clarity and an amazing sense of direction. Bass is tight and clean, with a few punchy moments that add some serious weight, but most of it is used as an extra layer of density in the lower octaves throughout the film. A great track, it just so happens to be one of the best ones I’ve heard in the “non overpowering” category.
• Audio commentary by director Zhang Yimou
• Toronto Film Festival Q & A
“Coming Home” is a tearjerker that is sure to tug at the heart strings of anyone with some sort of a heart, and does a great job at reenacting the horrors and destruction that was caused with the upheaval around the time of the Cultural Revolution. I’m actually surprised that the Chinese Government actually allowed such an unflinching criticism on the times, but I’m glad they did as it really acts as a metaphor for destruction and the semblance of repair that so many families went through. Audio and video are great and despite being minimalistic on the extras, is a definite watch in my humble opinion.
Starring: Li Gong, Daoming Chen, Huiwen Zhang
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by: Geling Yan (Novel), Jingzhi Zou (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 109 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 8th 2016
Buy Coming Home On Blu-ray at Amazon
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