So Long My Son spans three decades in the lives of two once closely knit families whose sons were born on the same day. Tragically, at the age of ten, one of the boys drowns and the families become alienated.
Director Wang Xiaoshuai; Cast Liu - Wang Jingchun; Wang - Yong Mei
180 minutes; China 2019
So Long My Son follows the lives of the bereaved parents Liu (Wang Jingchun, Best Actor Tokyo Film Festival 2013) and Wang (Yong Mei, The Assassin 2013). At the time of the accident, the impact of the cultural revolution under Chairman Mao which swept China from 1966 is deeply felt, not least the one child policy. It turns out Liu and Wang have the double pain of losing their only son only a few years after being forced by the authorities to terminate a pregnancy. Eventually, they adopt another boy who turns into a problem teenager and runs away. Decades later the estranged families reunite. Only then, do the world-weary couple, who have led their downtrodden lives in squalor, discover the real events surrounding the accident.
Simple, everyday chores and the burdens and celebrations are laid bare in detail. There are some astonishing scenes, not least when Ling and Wang are marched into the abortion clinic and then awarded a medal for their civic duty their faces stricken. Director Wang Xiaoshuai - Beijing Bicylce (2001) and Red Amnesia (2014) - cleverly weaves moments of political challenge when a local chairman announces to an assembly of factory workers that there is honour in their redundancies, the workforce rage at him.
This is another marathon film running 180 minutes. Whilst there are times when the plot is straining, the windows into Chinese life and customs, upheld by a superb cast, is utterly sublime.