Love Education (2017)

Review #1,607

Director:  Sylvia Chang
Cast:  Sylvia Chang, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Lang Yueting, Song Ning, Wu Yanshu
Plot:  Huiying decides to move her father's grave from his hometown to beside her mother's grave.  However, his first wife, who has looked after the grave for years, doesn't approve.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Nom. for 7 Golden Horse Awards - Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Film Song
Runtime:  120 mins
Rating:  PG (passed clean)
International Sales:  Beijing Hairun Pictures

One of the standout Chinese-language films of 2017, Sylvia Chang’s Love Education will please many, not least because it is an accessible work with a lot of heart.  Despite being nominated for seven Golden Horses, including Best Picture, Director and Leading Actress, Love Education unfortunately lost out in a competitive race involving the likes of The Great Buddha+ (2017) and The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful (2017), with not even an award to show for.  That, of course, doesn’t mean that it is a lesser work in any regard.  

With Chang headlining the film as Huiying, and playing opposite famed Mainland Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Blue Kite, 1993; Springtime in a Small Town, 2002), one would reasonably expect solid performances from the duo, and indeed, they succeed in doing so.  Both play a married couple (probably in their late ‘50s or early ‘60s) who becomes embroiled in a family dispute over the burial of their recently deceased matriarch.  

According to Huiying, her late mother’s final words were that she wanted to be buried next to her husband, whose grave happens to be in his old hometown in a rural village.  The problem comes when another old woman, the guardian of the grave, asserts that she is the first wife, and refuses to let Huiying exhume the grave to gather the remains to bring over to the city.

As much as it is a tale about a family conflict that is manipulatively made into tabloid fodder for a local variety show, Love Education also centers on intergenerational distancing, particularly the incommunicability between Huiying and her daughter Weiwei, who longs for freedom away from her home.  Weiwei, played by relative newcomer Lang Yueting, is the central focus of Chang’s film, this despite Huiying being the main contributor of tensions between various characters.  

One could see Weiwei as the bridge between past and future, a young woman who is trying her best to find a direction in life, whilst acknowledging that things could have turned out differently should her family’s narrative had been altered, or worse, disrupted.  Love Education is a sentimental if heart-warming tale about the institution of the family—its fabled history as well as the desires of the present—and the lengths one would go to protect its sanctity. 

Verdict:  Strong performances adorn this sentimental if heart-warming tale about family and the lengths one would go to protect its sanctity.  





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