Coming Home Gong Li, Chen Daoming, Zhang Hulwen. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
Before achieving international success with lush martial-arts epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Chinese director Zhang Yimou was known for his understated domestic dramas (including the Oscar-nominated Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern), many of which starred renowned Chinese actress Gong Li. Zhang and Gong reunite for Coming Home, an understated domestic drama that may not live up to their earlier work, but is still a strong showcase for actors Gong and Chen Daoming.
Gong plays a woman so traumatized by the imprisonment of her husband (Chen) during China’s Cultural Revolution that she’s unable to recognize him when he’s finally released years later. The case of selective movie amnesia is a little contrived, but Zhang and his stars wring genuine emotion out of it, aided by Qigang Chen’s evocative score. There’s a tragedy to the situation that mirrors the historical tragedy around it, and Zhang takes it all seriously, making the movie a striking mix of melodrama and melancholy.