Coming Home Blu-ray Review
On the package, the Blu-ray tells us that COMING HOME is from the director of HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS. While never having seen HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS myself, I think it’s safe to assume that COMING HOME is far from an action classic. If the packaging is supposed to alert us to the fact that COMING HOME is sure to be a classic, I think some people will be a bit disappointed. .
The setting for COMING HOME is fascinating as we take a step back in time to 1966, when the Communist Party is creating a Cultural Revolution in China. The remnants of capitalism are being pushed out of every aspect of life as Mao’s world view takes foot and is being enforced by his followers. While there is great civic pride and joy on the surface, there is also police harassment, the seizure of property, and imprisonment of innocent civilians going on in the streets. During all the commotion, we meet Feng Wanyu (Gong) and her daughter, Dandan (Zhang).
Both are attempting to live a normal life without the patriarch of the family, Lu Yanshi (Chen). Lu will spend nearly two decades in a labor camp as a political prisoner. During their attempt at normalcy, Feng and Dandan are informed that Lu has escaped. There are a couple of tense moments with inquisitive solders that ultimately feel meaningless as the Cultural Revolution ends and Lu is able to safely return home.
What drives COMING HOME though is the story about Feng suffering from amnesia. It deprives her from living a normal life, but it also robs her of her love for Lu. After years in labor, Lu’s face is weathered and broken, which is far from the young and jubilant Lu that Feng knew. That fact, in of itself in any context, is a disheartening tragedy. For the rest of COMING HOME, we watch Lu work with his daughter to try and find a way to win back his wife and make her realize that his wrinkled face is still the face she fell in love with.
The backdrop to this story, the clash between capitalism and communism, might serve as an interesting metaphor for the love story between Lu and Feng, but I seriously don’t know if it is. There are some cultural truths for certain countries. As an American, I’m more than likely to know certain aspects of our culture and significant historical point’s more so than someone from a foreign country. So I’m not quite sure if I need to know more information about 1960’s China to fully grasp the gravity of everything happening in the background and how it could possibly relate to the main story.
If it doesn’t relate, then the historical reference points feels unnecessary. The Cultural Revolution at the beginning of the movie feels a bit misleading, especially when we’re not introduced to the true conflict of COMING HOME, amnesia, until much later in the movie. I don’t doubt that this was a hit overseas and despite the language barrier, I can tell that this is a superbly acted film with some very smooth editing in tense sequences.
Overall, COMING HOME is a decent movie, but not quite for me. I suspect there’s too much of a cultural disconnect for me to grasp everything I see in this movie. I suspect I would need a couple chapters out of a history book to understand everything. It’s a little too slow, without purpose, and a little too long for its lack of content. While it certainly finds a way to pluck at the heart strings, it feels a little too overpowering for a movie so structurally weak.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) The Blu-ray captures the very essence of poverty in China in the 1960’s, at least what I would imagine it looking like.
Audio: (Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is well mixed and balanced, but I’m not quite sure on dialogue levels since I was mainly reading over listening.
Feature Commentary by Zhang Yimou: This solo commentary is transcribed through subtitles. The director talks a lot about transcribing the movie from the book it’s based on, as well as creating the look and feel of mid-60’s China. Reading the commentary over hearing it naturally takes away from some of the impact of what he’s saying. There are also quite a few moments of silence between his talking points.
Toronto Film Festival Q&A with Zhang Yimou (18:48): A translator helps the director through the Q&A, which provides a little bit more information that wasn’t quite relayed on the commentary. Focuses heavily on transcribing the novel.