Starring: Yao Huang, Sun Yang, Ni Hongjie
Director: Xue Bai
Running Time: 99 mins
The Crossing is a Chinese film about a teenage girl who spends her life crossing over the border between Hong Kong and the city of Shenzhen, studying in one and living in the other. To make some money for a dream holiday, she joins a smuggling ring and carries illegal goods across an ever more security-conscious border.
A small-scale drama that’s ever more common in Chinese cinema, The Crossing proves an eye-opening and occasionally interesting look into one of the country’s many difficulties in the modern era. However, while its premise may have the potential to prove an engrossing watch, its execution is far from impressive, with rather underwhelming drama and a confused dramatic focus making for a film that was never really able to grab my attention.
But let’s start off with what works about this film, in particular that premise. While it’s not necessarily delivered in perfect fashion, the mechanics of cross-border movement between Shenzhen in Mainland China and Hong Kong does make for interesting viewing, as it offers a glimpse into the nature of a hard border that doesn’t entirely cut two sides off from one another.
Also, the lead performance from Yao Huang is a fairly likable one, and although the weaker screenplay means there’s not all that much in the way of character depth or development at any point for her, she does still bring a degree of dramatic gravitas and emotion to the film, allowing you to find a little bit of emotional connection even when the story proves rather underwhelming.
And that’s my overall impression of this film in the end, that despite an interesting premise and likable lead performance, it never really manages to nail down a core message or atmosphere to make for a really striking watch.
Throughout, the film’s focus on cross-border smuggling between Mainland China and Hong Kong makes it feel like it’s a run-of-the-mill social drama, yet because it never really hammers home the issues and consequences surrounding that phenomenon, its nature as a social drama is rather ambiguous.
As a result, I found myself a little distracted from what is ultimately the film’s main message, often looking to the main character’s story for emotional drama in a story that I was expecting to unfold as a more personal, intimate drama.
Of course, a film doesn’t just have to be one or the other, but The Crossing feels like neither a social nor a personal drama, and with such a vague and frustratingly indecisive dramatic core throughout, it’s very difficult to latch on and engross yourself in the story, given that it’s hard to know what you’re really meant to be looking for.
In the end, that’s why I wasn’t overly impressed by The Crossing. It may have positives in its premise and lead performance, but its execution is really rather poor, and with underwhelming emotional drama and a frustratingly vague core message, it struggles to grab you in the way that it clearly intends to, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.5 overall.