The Road Home

The Road Home FL, 1999, 4 stars

The universal language of Home

From The Orlando Weekly, 2000

There may be better films at this year’s festival, but none as beautiful as The Road Home. The beauty of this Chinese love story lies not so much in its landscapes or the beauty of Zhang Ziyi – the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in her film debut – but in its poetic narrative and emotional maturity.

Businessman Yusheng returns to his village upon the death of his father to find his mother, Dj (Ziyi) distraught and insisting upon a traditional burial. She was fiercely devoted to her husband, the village teacher for 40 years, and wants his casket to be carried on foot for miles to the burial site. The mayor and the villagers at first believe this request to be both outlandish and impractical. But through a narrative flashback of his mother’s early life, he convinces them of the deep, almost destructive love and devotion she has for her husband.

Dj makes more sacrifices for her husband and loves more deeply than one would think possible. Her time apart from her husband during her early years was spent standing by the road, waiting for the school teacher’s return. To her it was his road home, both physically and emotionally. So when her dream of a traditional burial procession for him is realized, her life journey is complete.

Director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and writer Bao Shi paint the screen with the colors of love, joy and suffering. And of course it doesn’t hurt that they have the stunning Ziyi as part of their palette too. The narrative showing Dj’s young life is done in color and succeeds so well partially because of the contrast with the modern sequences, which are in somber black and white. The subtitles are difficult to read at times, but Ziyi’s face, the landscapes and the music speak more loudly than any language could.

© 2000 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC