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Great Wall, My Love

Great Wall, My Love
Chun, 28, Taiwanese, goes on a conflict-packed search journey with her Chinese guide, Ming, to find her father's long-lost first love, XiuQian, in China. Chun's father had promised XiuQian 60 years ago that he'd definitely come back to marry her. But not until recently, Taiwan and China were hostile to each other, he was never able to fulfill his promise. Chun and Ming grew up on two sides of the Taiwan Strait and were brought up with different values. They don't hesitate to cut each other down to size. Their turbulent romance unfolds in tears, laughter and a clash of values. The love story of two generations, across the Taiwan Strait, told with touching drama and biting comedy, is a poignant and entertaining road movie.

Reviews

haaitje
The thorny problem of China-Taiwan reunification beats mildly below the surface of love-left-behind heartwarmer Great Wall My Love 追愛 (2011), ironically co-produced by the same Mainland company (Jiuzhou Audio-Video Publishing Corporation 九洲音像出版公司) that made Wang Quanan's drama referencing the same theme, Apart Together 團圓 (2010). Both films start with an aging man travelling back from Taiwan to China to meet the woman he deserted in the late 1940s when the Nationalists fled to Taiwan. But whereas in Wang's movie they meet and chew over the past, in Emily LIU 劉怡明's the search is taken up by the daughter when the man suddenly dies of a heart attack. As the daughter pairs with a young Mainlander as her guide, her father's history becomes a problem inherited by the younger generation — one a young woman who was born in Taiwan and has never had any interest in visiting the Mainland, the other a young Mainlander who sees her as some kind of strange alien. As the woman discovers her family roots, the only big question in whether she'll be able to swap the life she knows in Taiwan for a new one in her "native land". To the film's credit, these undercurrents don't get in the way of the entertainment. Great Wall My Love can be enjoyed simply as a road movie-cum-odd couple romance, with two highly engaging performances from its leads (China's TONG Dawei 佟大為 and Taiwan-born Cherrie YING 應采兒) and bright, positive photography by ace Taiwan d.p. Jong LIN 林良忠 (Eat Drink Man Woman 飲食男女 (1994)) of locations in Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. An actor who hasn't always justified his star status in movies, Tong (I Love You 我愛你 (2001), Lost in Beijing 苹果 (2007), The Flowers of War 金陵十三釵 (2011)) here exudes a genuine charm as a young private detective who finds himself falling for his quirky client. But it's Ying, whose career started promisingly in Hong Kong (Visible Secret II 幽靈人間Ⅱ 鬼味人間 (2002), Throw Down 柔道龍虎榜 (2004)) a decade ago but lost traction during the mid-noughties, who dominates the movie in perhaps the best performance of her career. Animated and sexy, and a natural comedienne, Ying makes the role of the mercurial Chun-chun far fresher and more substantial than it seems on paper — and likable rather than annoying. Her chemistry with Tong is what drives the movie and prevents it from becoming just a glorified travelogue. There's not a mention of politics in the entire film. Instead, Great Wall is more about trust: on the surface, Chun-chun's trust in men in general, though by extension Taiwanese trust in mainland China. To the credit of director Liu and star Ying the tone is kept light while still managing emotional undertow, and even the supporting performances are deftly drawn in limited screen time (Kelly KO 柯素雲's mother, DONG Xuan 董璇's jealous work colleague). A champion of then-unfashionable mainstream film-making (Kangaroo Man 袋鼠男人 (1994)) at a time when Taiwan cinema was trapped in an arty, festival ghetto of its own making, Liu, based in Beijing for several years, shows no signs of her 10-year lay-off since her last movie, Woman Soup 女湯 (1999). At a technical level it's very smooth, and slides along effortlessly, even when not much is happening apart from the characters riffing off each other in beautiful locations. Less use of manga-like animated inserts (which mark the film as rather chick-flicky Taiwanese), and B&W flashbacks to the father's Mainland youth, would have been better — and allowed the film to work itself out just in contemporary terms between the two leads. But at the end of the day Great Wall still packs an emotional clout thanks to its simple, unaffected charm and quiet humour. The Chinese title means Chasing Love.

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