Ash Is Purest White ★★★

A morality tale wrapped in a meditative art film of the sort that is hard to fault, so careful is the filmmaking. But it veers heavily into the melodramatic, and its third act, which tries to wrap up the privately epic, decade-and-a-half emotional journey with a Hallmark Channel-like comeuppance, is a bit of a groaner. The movie also relies too heavily on the exceedingly handsome visages of its two leads for emotional depth. Unfortunately neither of them are able to dig quite deeply enough to let us see past their glamour, though Tao Zhao’s Qiao comes close. The film is more effective as a kind of historical travelogue through the changing China of the past decade-plus; its surveys of a vast land, burgeoning with industrial ambition yet still encrusted with provincial ways is highly illuminating.