Story spans 15 years in the relationship of two young actresses. As a way of eluding authorities, one girl joins a group of traveling players and soon develops a close, sisterly, friendship with the daughter of troupe’s manager.
After the manager’s death, the young women go to Japanese-occupied Shanghai in 1941 and quickly become well-regarded thesps. By 1944, however, a rift occurs, with one coming under the influence of corrupt, western-style gangster types and the other beginning to display revolutionary awareness. It all ends up in court as the two former friends confront each other and agonizingly let the truth come out.
Tale then jumps to the revolutionary China of 1950. One actress tracks down the other in the provinces and, after their emotional, remorseful reunion, pair makes a joint resolve in a classic final line – ‘Let us remold ourselves and always perform revolutionary operas.’
Last section is fortunately the only one with overt political content, as all that comes before plays as respectable, reasonably complex drama sparked by occasional stylistic flourishes from director Xie Jin. Film is a mix of excellent location lensing and highly atmospheric interiors.