Friday, July 3, 2015
On its busy surface, Beijing Bicycle director Wang Xiaoshuai’s latest film chronicles the hurtful sidelining of elderly widow Mrs. Deng (Lu Zhong). Bossy and lonely, she spends her retirement taking care of her house and pestering her grown-up children, who don’t seem to want her around anymore. Her elder son Jun (Feng Yuanzheng) is a successful family man, and in many ways the perfect billboard for the Chinese Dream: comfortably living with his wife (Amanda Qin) and their little boy in a nice apartment, driving around in a nice car, and generally enjoying the luxuries and consumerist lifestyle of the global bourgeoisie. Mrs. Deng’s younger son Bing (Qin Hao), gay and rebellious, has a salon and a boyfriend (Han Yibo); his sexuality, unacknowledged by his mother, is a source of tension and resentment. The old lady and her two sons face off across their generational divide, no longer capable of understanding one another. Thankfully she still finds solace with the ghost of her late husband, who keeps her company. Beneath the small, everyday hostilities of the family and the hustle and bustle of Beijing life, tragedy lurks: one day, the humdrum comes to a sudden end, with incessant, anonymous phone calls; every time Mrs. Deng picks up the phone, no one answers. Relentless and unnerving, this plague of phone calls is followed by physical menace as bricks are thrown at her window and garbage is dumped on her doorstep. Rumors of mysterious murders run wild in the neighborhood. Behind the stalking lies a mysterious tattooed boy, a long-buried secret, and the blood-red shadows of the Cultural Revolution.