Sometimes life is complicated.
Ladies and gentlemen… “Coming Home”.
Set during and after China’s cultural revolution, the story follows Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) and Feng Wanyu (Gong Li), a devoted loving couple who get separated when Lu Yanshi gets arrested and thrown into a labor camp. But when he returns years later, his beloved does not recognize him. So we follow the two as they deal with this situation. What we have here is a melodrama that could feel pandering and very dull in lesser hands, but thanks to a well constructed script in tandem with a confident and talented director, it manages to become quite a powerful tale that managed to rip out my fucking heart more than once. But it’s not just an emotional family drama, as it’s also a sociopolitical critique, which gave me an interesting look into a historical period I didn’t really know about. Blending all these elements makes for a really compelling story that has gained a spot in my heart.
The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall simply fascinating to follow. Gong Li plays Feng Wanyu, the main lady in our story. She’s a bit split at first, because she wants to love her man, but also don’t want to be arrested for being associated with him due to the political climate of the era. And what we learn about her throughout the movie is quite interesting, especially when put contrasted against the other characters. And Gong Li is fantastic in the role. Next we have Chen Daoming as Lu Yanshi, the man sent away who later comes home (there’s your title reference, whoop-de-doo). He has a fantastic arc in this movie that is utterly compelling, and Chen Daoming is fantastic in the role. We also get Zhang Huiwen as the daughter of our two mains, who has an interesting dynamic with the two, with Zhang Huiwen giving a really good performance. So yeah, this is quite well acted.
The score for “Coming Home” was composed by Chen Qigang, who I think did a really good job with it. It’s not used too much throughout the movie, but when it shows up, it’s quite emotionally effective. It’s heavily based in strings like violins (and a little bit of cello), with the occasional bit of piano for good measure. And it makes for a sound that is as heartbreaking as the story.
Based on “The Criminal Lu Yanshi” by Yan Geling, the movie was directed by Zhang Yimou. And while I can’t say anything how this fares compared to the book, I’d still like to say that Zhang Yimou did an excellent job in the craft here. Based on the little I’ve seen from him before (namely “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”), he’s a very visual director. This movie isn’t without dialogue, but it often relies more on the subtle emotions of individual scenes rather than just blatantly expositing what the hell is going on in the characters’ skulls. What helps bring this to life even more is the cinematography by Zhao Xiaoding, which is absolutely beautiful, and helps sell the vibe of the movie incredibly well.
This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 81/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.
While the slow and deliberate pace of “Coming Home” might scare away some people, I found the movie to be a heartbreaking and engrossing drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and terrific directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Coming Home” is a 9,64/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
My review of “Coming Home” is now completed.
Since we’re talking about Zhang Yimou, let’s put some pressure on distributors. I’ve been waiting for his latest movie, “Shadow” to come out here for quite a while. Where is it, yo? Gimme.