Starring: Sylvia Chang, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Lang Yueting
Director: Sylvia Chang
Running Time: 121 mins
Love Education is a Chinese/Taiwanese film about a woman who, after the death of her mother, decides to move her father’s grave from the countryside to the city to be reunited with his wife. However, his previous partner, who has looked after his grave for years, refuses to allow the removal, sparking a conflict between the two parties, and resulting in wider complications in their family’s life.
This is a really beautiful film. Not only is it a calm, elegant and touching drama, but it’s also a film that’s really able to get to the core of its central message, one of the importance of family. With wonderful performances across the board, an intriguing, dramatic and often even unpredictable story, and a generally bright and ultimately uplifting atmosphere, Love Education makes for a thoroughly captivating watch.
Let’s start off with the performances. The film has a fairly large cast, encompassing a whole range of fairly major characters. At the centre of the story, we see Sylvia Chang face off against Wu Yanshu as the woman who wants to move her father’s grave and the old woman refusing respectively. Those two are brilliant, and although they put on completely opposite personas, with Chang very persistent and often loud and frustrated, and Tian almost silent for half the movie, they work brilliantly as the two leads for the opposing sides surrounding the fate of this man’s grave.
However, much like the story as a whole, the film isn’t just about the fight over where the grave should rest, but rather a whole collection of family members, and none better embodies that side of the story than Lang Yueting, who plays the twenty-something daughter working as a journalist in the big city.
Although at first it may seem as if her side of the story isn’t quite as integral, Lang is an absolutely riveting presence throughout, and really works hard to bring her character into the film’s spotlight, something that makes what would normally be a simple secondary plot actually a thoroughly riveting one, as we see her struggle with her romantic relationships, home life, all the while working hard to achieve her ambitions.
There are a good few other characters and actors that I could go onto praise, however the gist of this film is that it takes a rather large cast and gives every individual the chance to shine, making Love Education a thoroughly engaging watch on all sides, which is really satisfying to see.
However, what’s just as impressive is the film’s deeper messages. Yes, on the surface, it is a story about a conflict over a man’s grave, and that alone is really engaging, proving surprisingly unpredictable as the balance of support shifts in one direction or the other throughout the film. However, the film’s emphasis on the importance of family, as well as serious interpersonal clashes because of the generation gap, is just fascinating to watch.
The family side of the story is really touching, and although it’s a film that looks at a family in a very difficult situation, the story reinforces the strength of family bonds, no matter how difficult things may get, something particularly evident in the regularly strained relationship between mother and daughter Sylvia Chang and Lang Yueting.
Of course, China is a culture that places enormous importance on family, so there’s undoubtedly an extra level of emotionally charged drama behind this story, something that you can really feel come through with great passion in Sylvia Chang’s directing. It’s not a melodramatic or cheesy drama, but it is one that features a lot of real-world emotion, and as a result is very moving, often getting very close to the point of being a tearjerker, something that’s always very impressive to see.
Also, the film puts a lot of focus on the enormous generation gap in China. Centring on the lives of three women mentioned above, the film covers three generations, an older woman with very traditional values living in a small rural village, a middle-aged woman struggling to balance her own career with looking after her elders as well as her own daughter, and a young woman trying to live her life to the full despite the threat that her own family will disapprove, all of which adds yet another level of intrigue and drama to proceedings.
So, it’s clear that Love Education is a lot more than a simple drama, as it proves a riveting and very deep insight into modern China, as well as the ideals of family. It is a slow-moving film, and that all may not seem like the most exciting prospect, but believe me when I say that the film is a truly riveting watch.
Save for a couple of hiccups in its middle act when it arguably expands its focus to too many characters (there’s one younger character who really didn’t add the same amount of emotion or drama to the story), it’s an excellent film, and with fantastic performances across the board, passionate and elegant directing, and a deep and consistenly enthralling story, Love Education is not one to be missed, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.9 overall.