Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Luxury Car

Luxury Car shines a light on China's generational chasm between traditional rural life and the modern embrace of urban consumerism at any cost. No, it's not a documentary, but by focusing on the microcosm of one father and daughter relationship it speaks volumes about the monumental macro changes impacting Chinese culture. At the same time, it presents a gripping and rewarding family drama.

An aging farmer travels to the bustling metropolis of Wuhan in search of his only son. His wife has a terminal illness and begs to see their son one more time before she dies, although the son has been missing for years. While in Wuhan, he reconnects with his daughter (pop star Tian Yuan) and learns that her life may not be playing out in the manner he had hoped. She's taken up with a local mobster and earns her keep as a karaoke bar escort, putting her in contact with some decidedly rough characters. Dad is no country bumpkin, in fact he spent his formative years in Wuhan as well, but was forced to flee to the country during political upheaval. However, he's long since adjusted to the rural way of life and is clearly uncomfortable with his daughter's lifestyle choice. As a result, what starts as a search for his son ultimately becomes a wake-up call for his daughter as she’s forced to reflect on her direction and determine her future path.

The film could have easily drifted toward parody if the daughter was a mindless gold digger or the father was a judgmental simpleton, but thanks to superb direction and acting, the characters are fully formed as intelligent and complex individuals. The father in particular carries himself with a stoic grace that fully conveys his conservative mindset without the need to talk about it. Tian Yuan nails her part as the prodigal daughter with just the right balance of world-weary charm and buried emotions. The only other supporting characters with significant screen time also avoid becoming caricatures in spite of their seemingly one-note roles: the mobster and a local cop who assists the father in his search. None of the characters are innocents, and their wizened approach to their situations helps to give the film significant depth and resonance.

Luxury Car is now available on DVD. For more information, visit http://www.firstrunfeatures.com/.

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