The ViewLondon Review
Review byMatthew Turner24/02/2010
Opens Friday 26 February 2010
Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins
Engaging, impressively directed drama with a strong script, a superb soundtrack and a terrific central performance from Lu Huang.
What’s it all about?
Written and directed by Xiaolu Guo, She, A Chinese stars Lu Huang as Li Mei, a young Chinese woman who’s bored with life in her Chinese village. After a brief dalliance with local boy made good Brother Qiang (Wu Leiming), Mei rejects the civil servant her mother wants her to marry and is raped by a trucker (Xiao Xianpeng) who she thought was her friend; however, when she leaves the village, she’s fired from her factory job for producing shoddy work and ends up in a salon-slash-brothel where she attracts the attentions of gangster Spikey (Wei Yi Bo).
When Spikey is killed in an attack, Mei takes his money and travels to London, where she winds up married to a kindly older man (Geoffrey Hutchings) who’s still in love with the memory of his dead wife. However, Mei finds her attentions drawn towards Rachid (Chris Ryman), who runs the local Indian takeaway.
The title of the film announces its allegorical intentions upfront and Mei’s continual exploitation does get a bit depressing after a while, but it’s to the credit of both Xiaolu Guo and Lu Huang that her various misadventures never seem forced, just as the people she meets seem real rather than stereotypes or caricatures. Indeed, the excellent script has an impressively naturalistic feel about it and the direction occasionally recalls the work of the Dardenne Brothers.
Lu Huang is excellent as Mei – her constantly impassive face leads you to think that she’s blindly accepting everything fate throws in her path, but she’s also more than capable of taking charge of her own destiny, even if the decisions she makes aren’t always the right ones. There’s also strong support from both Hutchings and Ryman, both of whom have intriguing relationships with Mei.
Guo also includes quirky captions that lend the film an American indie feel, heightened by a terrific punk-ish soundtrack that works surprisingly well. In addition, Guo orchestrates several memorable scenes (his quasi-fetishisation of Mei’s ‘borrowed’ red iPod is particularly interesting) and there are some beautiful shots.
This is an engaging, impressively directed and fantastically acted drama that’s well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.