Coming Home

Coming Home ★★★★

The opening act of Zhang Yimou’s engrossing drama suggests that it’s going to be a political tale, as Cultural Revolution-era escaped dissident Lu (Chen Daoming) complicates the lives of his still-devoted wife, Yu (Gong Li), and his daughter, Dandan (Zhang Huiwen), whose career as an aspiring ballerina might be damaged by association. But the meat of the story involves a jump several years later, as Lu—now released as “rehabilitated”—returns home to discover that a form of dementia has rendered Yu incapable of recognizing him. Zhang and screenwriter Zou Jingzhi, working from Yan Geiling’s novel, build a steady stream of heartbreak around Lu’s attempts to “cure” his wife, while guilt and recrimination infects the relationships between all three family members over the events surrounding that long-ago escape. But it’s the performances by Li and Chen that give Coming Home its greatest power, conveying both the simple tragedy of being lost in a different world, and the strength required to make peace with that loss, before ultimately making emotional sacrifices when faced with the “worse” part of “for better or worse.”