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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2007
An old village teacher gets caught in a snowstorm while trying to raise funds for a new schoolhouse and dies of heart failure. His grown son comes home from the city to village elders hoping he'll convince his grieving mother to accept a truck or a tractor to transport the corpse back to the village for burial. His mother insists that his friends from the village should carry the coffin on "the road home" in accordance with ancient customs. The village elders and the son all agree that this is unreasonable but make allowances for an old woman in her grief while trying to think of ways to change her mind. But the son gradually comes around to his mother's way of thinking, coming up with a little practical compromise -- he will pay for people to carry his father home in place of the village's young who have all left -- and then finds himself surprised by the turnout as his father makes his last journey home.

The film begins in the present in black and white, enhancing the wintry conditions and the bare poverty of his mother's home and of the village as well as the widow's grief. But as his memory returns to the past, his parents' love story comes to life in gorgeous colour. This transition is not unknown in film (see "Bonjour Tristesse") but its use here is especially effective: the meadows and the trees, the hills, the narrow dirt road, the simple structures, the rustic clothes bloom on the screen in all their hues. The girl's mother lacking sight is almost an irony in all the vivid colour of the past, but you realize that she is no less attuned to her daughter and the goings-on around her. The blacks and whites especially suit the starkness of the village and the snow-covered road in winter and emphasize the cold, bare rooms of the old family home and the old woman's pain. Funnily enough, it also sits well with the affection and the respect that become apparent as the villagers and former students take it in turn to carry their old teacher home.

Loaded with nostalgia and the most cherished human values, bright with an innocence and rich with a romance one suspects have long departed from cinema, "The Road Home" reminds us of what we may have lost in the drive to progress and modernize: there's more to life than getting ahead or the next big thing. We don't always have to leave the past behind. Old customs have meaning. No matter when or where you go, people are different and the same.
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on 27 March 2005
This is a simple plot well rendered. "The Road Home" consists of a frame story, filmed in black and white, and an embedded story (a story within the story), filmed in vivid colour. It is a love story between an illiterate young woman and a village teacher, set in a superbly filmed background - it really makes you want to travel to China. It is a story of great love and rare devotion of a woman to a man. Though only a simple village girl, the heroine achieves her goal through sheer dedication and perseverance. Despite the straightforward plot line, the film is full of symbols, such as a food bowl, a hair pin, a grandmother who wept when her husband died until she became blind, and the road home itself. I found the many references to popular Chinese beliefs and superstitions fascinating, I've learnt a few things about Chinese culture, and I was left with a desire to explore more about it. The film also has a political dimension, not letting us forget that the love story is set in the years of the Cultural Revolution in China, and as a result we get a poignant reminder of how political issues can interefere with normal everyday life.
The cinematography is superb - the fields, the heroine's clothes, the food, the bowl, are filmed in vibrant, eye-pleasing colours, and enchant the eye.
This film is a gem, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!
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on 21 November 2006
This is a beautiful film, full of charm, innocence, love and respect. Opening in black & white, it tells the story of a teacher coming to rural China during the Cultural Revolution to work in the village school. An illiterate peasant girl (Zhang Ziyi) falls for the teacher, the excellent Zheng Hao, and their courtship forms the bulk of the film. It is a love story that captivates from start to finish. 'The Road Home' of the title is the funeral path that must be walked so the spirit of the dead person (the village schoolmaster at the end of his life) can find its way home.
I have seen Zhang Ziyi in many films and not paid too much attention to her but she is outstanding here. This is a simple, beautiful film, told with charm and love. Highly recommended.
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on 18 January 2009
I have never liked a romance in my life, certainly in Western cinema at least. I bought this on the basis it had outstanding reviews on amazon, and I was completely blown away by this film. There were no complications, no sneaky plot twists or over-dramatised, over-emotional scenes like you may get in some western romances, just a simple, poignant reminder of the simple things that make life worth living: love, loyalty and respect for one another. You feel every tiny change in emotion with Di, the main character, played outstandingly by Zhang Ziyi, which makes this film touvh the heart like no other. This is the sort of unique experience that warms the heart and entertains again and again.
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on 3 September 2006
This a tribute to pure, honest, life lasting love but at the same time it is a tribune to the liberation of women from the customs of a society that predetermined their entire life and behavior.

There is something beautiful in every aspect of this film, something that we enjoy and something that we can share with the heroes of this story either this is happiness or sadness.

And yet, one thing stands above all.

The fact that this film can be considered as a an eulogy and tribute to the teachers the world round.

This is where one can see the difference of the teaching as a profession and as a rite, a service to community.

This film says the story of those brave teachers who were ready to dedicate their entire life in order to give to the deprived children of the countryside the basics of education.

My parents were teachers too and in the 30s when they started teaching they too had to accept as part of their salary a daily contribution from the villagers in the form of foodstuff.

I thought of it as degrading and when I saw the same story, told in this film I realized that there were no budgets for education during those years and there was a different approach to contribution either for the survival of the teachers or for building a school etc.

This beautiful story is told in a perfect way through the brilliant directing of Zhang Yimou and the acting of Zhang Ziyi and Zheng Hao

But the one who must be awarded with our respect and admiration is the director of photography Hou Yong who captures light and details in both colour and black/white in such an intensive way.

His ability to reverse the expected and use black/ white for recent scenes and colour when referring to the old story telling is exceptional.

This film is highly recommended for those who love Chinese quality cinema and for those who want to have an introduction in the best the Chinese Film Industry has to offer.
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on 13 June 2001
In the days of Hollywood Blockbusters it is heartening to watch a film like this. The film is in no rush to tell the story, it slowly unwinds and encaptures you within its tale. If you are like me, and are getting fed up with film after film of gratuitous violence and buildings blowing up, then watch this. A real film about real people. A film about love and respect.Excellently acted, a piece of art. For those who do not like subtitles, just watch the film and ignore them and let the emotion of the actors and the sunset of the scenery take you away to another world. It is rare these days to find true escapism in a film, a story that will slow your heart beat down, a story that you believe could happen to you. In days of special effects it has been forgotten what is truly special, real people and real emotions. In days where people seem so obsessed with the depraved aspects of society, why not celebrate a film that reacts against this. A beautiful film. A magical film.
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on 14 March 2005
The fact that so many people have given such a raving write up, speaks for itself. It's so down to earth and true to life that you almost forget you're watching a film. It beautifully shot and portrays the feelings and innocence of the main character unbelievably well. You can feel the warmth of the characters. If you've been to China you recognise so many things which still hold true today. It's very pleasing to see a film which shows so much sincere love and care for a change. A must buy and for the price the bargain of Amazon.
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on 23 April 2003
I was tempted not to write a review because I have not been able to analyse exactly why I found this film so moving.
However, I think the key is that it's a very simple story of universal relevance told with such economy, subtlety and attention to detail that one easily comes to know, believe in and care about the characters.
Of particular note is the fact that the makers of The Road Home knew what to include and what to leave out. In the wrong hands this film would have been twice as long and half as moving.
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on 20 August 2008
A beautifully filmed story of exquisite tenderness.

Starting off in black and white, a student comes home to his grieving, aged mother and to bury his father who has died outside the village in which he was the teacher. The mother wants to have the body carried home although the son and the mayor of the village prefer to have the body brought in a vehicle. The story then moves into the past and transitions into colour showing how the mother, as a young and extraordinarily pretty but shy 18 year old girl, meets the teacher on his first arrival in the village.

I guess you would call it love at first sight, as she contrives to be close to him, walking past the school each day, standing by the road as he walks home, taking water from a well overlooking the school. Their relationship blossoms in so far as it can, given the conventions of the time when, without warning, the teacher is taken from the village, but promises to return. The young girl spends days by the side of the road waiting for him until his eventual return. In watching this poignant story, the viewer gradually understands why she wants to pay this last tribute to her dead husband.

The use of drab black and white for the present day, transitioning into breathtakingly vivid colour for the past reinforces the difference in mood between the two ages - the love story of the past contrasting with the sorrow of the present.
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This is not as opulently beautiful as some of Zhang Yimou's films but the story is compelling and wonderfully told with deep affection for the characters. It's a love story beginning in the present with the death of a beloved village school teacher whose widow demands that he be honored by having his body carried--not driven--from where he died to his home in the small mountain village where he taught for over 40 years. The expense seems extravagant and where will the pallbearers come from? Most of the young people have left the village for the cities.

Returning for the funeral is the dead teacher's son. He realizes how important this ancient tradition of actually, physically carrying the body home, and so he goes about making that happen for his illiterate mother who is now all alone.

The real focus of the movie however is the extraordinarily beautiful face of the then 19-year-old Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000; Memoirs of a Geisha 2005) who plays Zhao Di, the mother as a young woman. We are flashed back to the teacher's arrival in the village and to the young Zhao Di doing everything in the exuberant way of first love that she can to catch his eye. Again and again Zhang has his camera focused tightly on Zhang Ziyi's face as she experiences love at virtual first sight and goes through all the emotions of love's labors. Pointedly Zhang Yimou shows only her face. Her body is covered in the padded winter clothes of the Chinese north.

In this focus on the skill, charisma and beauty of Zhang Ziyi one sees perhaps the influence of some Western directors like Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Roget Vidam who made movies in homage to the beauty of their young stars, Bergman with Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann, Kieslowski with Juliette Binoche and Irene Jacob, and Vadim with Bridget Bardot and Jane Fonda.

As always in the films of Zhang Yimou one sees in the background or off to a side a gentle but penetrating subtext on the effect that communism has had on Chinese society. Here he gives not criticism but guidance as he carefully insists that the traditional ways have value and should not be completely shoved aside.
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