Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Lost and Love: Child Abduction in China
China, you need a valid state I.D. to travel on a plane, attend university, secure
a marriage license, and sign most legal documents, just like here in America
(but we’re probably a lot more indulgent about things like voting). Abducted
children who are trafficked into new homes are doubly victimized, because they will
not be able to do any of these things without their birth certificates. They
are effectively denied a future, through no fault of their own. That is
definitely the outlook for teenaged abductee Ceng Shuai and Lei Zekuan’s long
missing son is probably in a similar position. The two men’s related fates will
lead to a bond of trust when they head out on the road together in Peng Sanyuan’s
Lost and Love (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
fifteen years, Lei has driven through China on a longshot quest to find the
missing infant son who was snatched away from his grandmother. He doggedly hands
out fliers and drives through town after town trailing a banner of the young
baby taken shortly before his disappearance. However, when Lei spies a notice
for a recently kidnapped Zhou Tianyi, he has a banner made for her as well. He
is obsessed, but compassionate.
life on the road leads to a spot of trouble for Lei, Ceng volunteers to fix his
motorbike. At first, he cannot help resenting Lei as an extension of the birth
parents he presumes to be negligent. However, as he comes to understand Lei’s
story and his lingering pain, he slowly accepts the older man as something of a
mentor. Together, they hit the road, following up leads to his possible home
village posted on various abduction-resource web sites.
the illicit trade of kidnapped infants is a growing problem in Mainland China.
For victimized parents, the government’s only partly relaxed One Child policy
makes it even more painful, consigning them to a permanently empty nest. Peng’s
screenplay offers a peak into the criminal operations causing such anguish, but
his primary focus is on the lasting emotional repercussions for birth parent
and abducted child alike.
as he did in Ann Hui’s quietly moving A Simple Life, Andy Lau completely lets go of his movie star trappings to
give a raw, earthy performance as the guilt-wracked Lei. For the most part, his
work is reserved and understated, but when he fully explains what the loss of
his son meant for him and his family, it is pretty devastating. Likewise, Jing
Boran is completely convincing as the confused and angry, yet still
down-to-earth Ceng. Viewers really get a sense that he is just a kid making his
way in the world, but it is even more challenging for him, given his
circumstances. Fans will also enjoy seeing “Big” Tony Leung Ka-fai turn up in a
rather touching cameo as a brusque but compassionate traffic cop.
Although Peng’s roots are in television, L&L is remarkably free of
manipulation and melodrama. It might be considered an issue-driven film to an
extent, but it always feels more like a character study (or rather two character
studies). It is indeed an intimate human interest story (supposedly based on
real events), but Mark Lee Ping-bin’s arresting cinematography gives it a big,
cinematic look. One of the best in the business, Lee vividly captures the
expansive beauty of the countryside as well as the mean squalor of the cities. Despite
some conspicuous loose ends, Lost and
Love is a refreshingly mature and accessible drama, recommended for
mainstream audiences when it opens this Friday (3/20) in New York, at the AMC
Empire and the Village 7.
Labels: Andy Lau, Chinese Cinema