4 – stars
It is rare in today’s film world to find an old fashioned family story that brings tears to your eyes. While many American’s tend to overlook foreign films, either due to their lack of familiarity or their fear of having to read sub-titles, this is one Chinese film worth putting on the list along side other family sentimental classics.
Thirteen year old Liu Xiaochun (Yun Tang) is a violin prodigy who is loved by his working class father. Liu Cheng (Peiqi Liu), although uneducated and living a peasant’s life, is raising his son on his own. Both live in a small country town. The only thing we know early on is that the boy’s mother disappeared while he was still a baby.
Liu Cheng knows nothing of the social graces that usually surround the world of classical musicians in the big city, but he knows in his heart that his son has a gift and he wants the world to love his son with the same sentiment that he carries within himself. And, so, Liu Cheng decides to take all that he has and invest it to take his son to the city of Beijing. Here he knows in his heart that Liu Xiaochun will become the gift to the world that he already sees within him.
Through this experience, young Liu Xiaochun experiences that care and contempt that can be present in the competitive world of professional musicians. He also is befriended by Lili (Hong Chen), a twenty-something fashion wannabe that becomes like an older sister to young Xiaochun – even though in his adolescent mind he fantasizes for a more romantic relationship.
Lili, along with Xiaochun’s teachers, are ultimately softened by the sometimes crude, but nevertheless pure, heart of his father who only wants the best for his son. And, Xiaochun’s professors – both of whom his father begs and pays to teach his son – come to recognize that this is a young man of remarkable talent and depth of feeling.
As Xiaochun is given the opportunity to enter the world of high society and competitive talent, his simple father is faced with the decision to make a painful sacrifice. Xiaochun’s teacher believes that the only way he will succeed is to live with the professor’s family and become part of this new professional world 24 hours a day. Liu Cheng loves his son so much that he decides to leave Xiaochun in Beijing.
In the end, young Xiaochun realizes that the depth of feeling that is exhibited in his music comes from his deep love for his father. And so, with the old fashioned shameless sentimentality that one might find in a classic film like “It’s a Wonderful Life ,” young Liu Xiaochun follows his father who is on his way home, to play for the only audience that truly appreciates who he is.