Coming Home

Coming Home ★★

First 20 minutes or so sets up a promising dynamic: a professor sent to prison during Mao's Cultural Revolution, a young daughter completely inundated by the party line, and a wife conflicted by her allegiance to both. The first few scenes also manage some pretty interesting visuals; the ballet dancing with the rifles, in particular, makes for particularly pointed imagery.

Unfortunately, once the film jumps forward to after the Cultural Revolution, the film devolves into predictable melodrama; making the rest of its run-time feel longer than Winter Sleep--which I should say is quite a feat. The complexity set up initially is swept under the rug as the film veers towards becoming a version of The Notebook, just set in China after the Cultural Revolution is over. Indeed, the historical and political backdrop might as well have been non-existent given its treatment in the film, relegated to the simple task of setting up a Nicholas Sparks-esque plot (not something I would have ever expected to say of a Zhang Yimou film). But watching the film, it's hard to believe that he even directed it. From the filmmaker who did Hero and Raise the Red Lantern and many more ravishing, sumptuous films, Coming Home feels unusually staid and drab...

By comparison, Maps to the Stars and Goodbye to Language, though I didn't think either were particularly accomplished, seem much better by comparison, because they at least had ambition. Coming Home is sadly devoid of that. It may be about a journey home, but it's certainly not a return to form.