Wang Quan'an's latest film Apart Together, which screened at Berlin and Sydney Film Festival festivals this year, attempts to look at the historical and political fallout from the 1949 civil war in China by rooting it firmly in personal family drama.
The story unfolds in 1980s Shanghai when Liu Yangsheng (Ling Feng) comes from Taiwan in search of the Yu-e, the woman he left behind there 30 years ago. His wife has recently died and he hopes to take Yu-e back to Taiwan with him. But, as we know the course of true love never runs that smooth and Yu-e is torn by her love for Liu and the loyalty she owes her common law husband. In the end she sacarifices her happiness for his.
It is a beautifully told film and the performances are lovely and subtle. Like a lot of Asian cinema much of the dramatic tension happens around the dinner table. Don't go to this film hungry. Seriously, you have been warned!
The film as a whole though is like $5 steak and mash, it always seems fulling, but in the end is never really that satisfying. Wang brings in the historical context, but fails to really explore it. Leaving those of us not in the know about China's civil war with barely a snapshot of what happened. He also introduces the story lines of supporting characters(like the granddaughter about to break up with her boyfriend)at pivotal moments in the main narrative, jolting you harshly away from the main story and for no discernible reason. Then to top it off he annoyingly doesn't return to these smaller stories. What then is the point in mentioning them in the first place?
So if $5 steak's your thing,go for it. Personally I would rather have the banquet.