Starring: Wei Wei, Shi Yu, Li Wei
Director: Fei Mu
Running Time: 98 mins
Spring In A Small Town is a Chinese film about a family whose quiet and repetitive life is brought bursting into life by the arrival of an old friend.
A classic of Chinese cinema, being made at the height of some of the country’s greatest political turbulence, and yet still evoking incredible peace and tranquility alongside an engaging story throughout. While Spring In A Small Town doesn’t quite hit the high notes when it comes to being an emotionally enthralling watch, it’s an impressive film in its own right, and with a small, isolated setting complete with a tiny cast, it’s a particularly intimate watch that catches your attention right from the start.
Let’s start off with what works well about this film, the characters. Given that the film only features five people, the whole story works very similarly to a stage play, with each of the characters being introduced individually, and then each seeing their relationships all tangled up into the ball of romance, loyalty and betrayal that occurs throughout the film.
With effectively four main players in what becomes a ‘love quadrangle’ (which is apparently a word), the movie does well to notify you of each of their various backstories and intentions, to the point that each character’s actions throughout are very clear, allowing you to easily get to grips with all of the messy loves and losses throughout, something that many films focusing on love rivalries fail to do.
What’s more is that the actors who play the lead characters all put in good performances, effectively maintaining the balance between some of the more melodramatic plot elements and the quiet setting. Wei Wei is particularly strong as the female lead, and her performance is full of intrigue, as she puts on a display that neither shows her character in an overly sweet nor overly conniving light, making her actions throughout the most unpredictable and interesting to watch.
Another plus here comes from the setting itself. With the story taking place around a small village populated by only four people, and still suffering from the impact of the Second World War, as their houses lie in rubble and ruins, director Fei Mu does well to create an enticing atmosphere that combines both the serenity of isolated rural life and the darkness of a town in ruins after the war. While it’s a contrast that doesn’t quite pervade through to the story in real depth, I was impressed with just how well it worked as an overall atmosphere for the film.
Despite all that, there are reasons to say that Spring In A Small Town isn’t quite the gem that it’s often acclaimed as. While an engaging and intimate story that engages you in its individual characters throughout, I felt that the film was really missing a strong emotional power.
Given that the film focuses on characters struggling between loyalty to their family or following their emotions, I really feel that there should have been a lot more powerful emotion on display. Now, while we don’t want the movie to stray into being a melodrama, the majority of this film is a little too well-explained, and while that helps you to understand where everyone is coming from, it doesn’t help to really engross you in their deeper emotions, which means that it’s difficult to be really engrossed in the story at hand.
Overall, though, I thought Spring In A Small Town was a good film. With good acting, strong directing and an impressive atmosphere throughout, it’s an engaging watch, albeit not one that will really grab you and toy with your emotions, which is why I’m giving it a 7.4.