Last Train Home
This is easily the most affecting movie I've seen all year. I felt so sad and demoralized (yes even more than usual) after seeing it that I felt like I needed to change multiple aspects of the way I live. It is basically the story of a family but also of a country and culture. The parents in the film left home when their kids were very young to work in a factory in one of the bigger cities. Subsequently their children never really grew to love them or even know them. It creates a strained dichotomy to say the least. They are only able to travel home once a year for the Chinese New Year and it is a struggle even then. 130 Million Chinese travel to the country from the cities every year at this time and it is the largest migration of human beings in the world.
The work the parents do, sewing clothes in a factory, appears brain numbing and crushing. The camera's let us peer very intimately into their lives. I was surprised and impressed by the camera work. Despite the film's subject matter, it is one of the more beautiful movies I have seen in a long time. Their children live in their village on a farm with their grandmother. It seems like it would be fun to me but I'm not a seventeen year old Chinese girl (yet).
As the film progresses the couple's oldest child, the aforementioned 17 year old, drops out of school and goes to work in a factory and then a nightclub in a different big city. It is heartbreaking to watch the family crumble after her decision. She seems so insolent and unwilling to look at what her parents are doing for her. At the same time, I remember being 17 and wanting me own place in life. However, my family's situation wasn't nearly as dire and my decision to drink Colt .45 behind the Kwik Shop across from my high school didn't carry nearly the consequence.
Watching this movie at first made me want to never by any products made in China. I'm not sure if that is possible, even with my thrift shop lifestyle. But on closer inspection it made me wonder if we all started doing that, would happen to these factory workers and their families. There's no way they could return to an agricultural system at this point. We seem locked in together.
The best compliment I can think of to give this movie is that if it were not a documentary I would have enjoyed it just as immensely. The director, Lixin Fan, was able to give us all sides of each main character as well as deeper insight into Chinese culture. I really can't speak highly enough for this film.