Here’s a lovely family film out of France and China that seems to not have gotten much of a release because, let’s be honest, “subtitles” and “family film” don’t really go together, at least in the U.S.A. But it is lovely, full of picture postcard shots of Chinese landscapes, cities and villages, full of handsome upper-class people and earthy villagers, and hardly a discouraging word to be found on the road from Peking to, well, the middle of nowhere.
The story concerns Ren, a really bratty, spoiled little girl whose upper-class parents don’t have time for her. And so it comes to pass that the mother is stuck for babysitting and sends her off with her husband’s father, who has been alienated from the family for four years (for a mistake—there are tiger moms and tiger children, quite obviously).
Ren is highly intelligent, and has grand gestures made for her, and this comes out as defiance. This isn’t really her story but she does have a character arc, and what’s nice is that while she becomes increasingly likable when she’s exposed to people who treat her as a human being (rather than a commodity) she remains a kind of pain-in-the-ass throughout, thwarting the adults’ plans to get her own way at every opportunity. It’s just that, by the end of the movie, she uses her powers for good more than evil.
There’s not a lot of subtlety here: There are a number of backstories concerning the grandfather and his son, the grandfather and his wife, the girl’s father and mother , and all are resolved pleasantly enough after a fashion. And I have no objection to simple stories simply told in a pleasant manner. We’re not talking Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf here, and that’s a good thing.
Ultimately, we get to like everyone we meet, and when was the last time you saw a movie like that?
The Boy was also very pleased by this film.