Starring: Xu Huanshan, Wu Tianming, Yan Bingyan
Director: Zhang Yang
Running Time: 101 mins
Full Circle is a Chinese film about a group of pensioners who, frustrated with their lack of freedom at their retirement home, aim to break out for one final escapade and perform together in the big city.
I can’t say that this is the world’s most powerful and engrossing film, occasionally suffering from somewhat melodramatic turns throughout. However, even though it may not be the tearjerker that it aims to be, Full Circle is a wonderfully heartfelt film from beginning to end, with a group of very likable characters in the lead that make for a very pleasant and enjoyable watch.
Let’s start on the bright side, with the fact that Full Circle does its job when it comes to being heartfelt and generally very pleasant. Although there’s drama throughout, the film never loses sight of its lighter side, and the bright, optimistic way in which it portrays the drive of older people who have been largely forgotten by those that are meant to look after them will definitely put a smile on your face.
What’s more is that the film has a very good sense of humour, one that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. Above all, the cheeky homages to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest are great to see, as this group of pensioners run off to get a bit of respite from their rather caged existence, and although there’s nothing that’s anywhere near as dark or heavy as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the nods to the likes of Nurse Ratched and the zanier personalities of that film are a welcome introduction to the film.
And when it comes to the film’s own comedy, that’s all pretty good too. With a story like this, it can be too easy to be a little more mocking of the main characters as they attempt to break out from somewhere that they’re expected to be, but rather than that, the movie always maintains a positive outlook alongside a lot of light, simple yet enjoyable comedy. It’s not a mad, riotous laughter-fest, but that’s definitely not its intention, and that’s why you can sit back and smile along right the way through.
In general, then, it’s clear that Full Circle is a film with a lot of heart, however when it comes to providing a plot that’s consistently engrossing and powerful on a deeper emotional level, it falls a little short. While I was engaged throughout, and enjoyed the pleasant nature of the group’s ambitions to perform in the big city, I felt that some plot elements were overexaggerated a little, particularly some of the more dramatic elements such as the relationship between our main character and his son and grandson, as well as a couple of other larger twists.
It’s all designed to tug at your heartstrings and make you sympathise with these people that feel like they’ve been thrown away in an old folks’ home to live out their final days, but it’s occasionally a little much, and that melodrama doesn’t really work well enough to deliver the emotional punch that the film is going for.
Still, Full Circle is a very enjoyable and likable film with a heartfelt and positive central story and wonderful characters, along with some great humour, and even if it’s not the world’s most powerful or endlessly enthralling watch, it’s very pleasant nonetheless, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.