A nostalgic drama about a young man’s friendship with an old guy and his neighbors, “Fathers” recalls traditional Mainland movies of 20 years ago with a less melodramatic spin. Shot through with a nostalgia for times past, and celebrating conservative values in the best way, this good-looking first pic by former TV art director Lou Jian is too conventional to make much impact in the West beyond specialized events.
Divorced, middle-aged journo Qian Wei (Li Mengnan) muses how life in Beijing has changed radically in two decades, and recalls an incident back in 1982 when he accidentally knocked down old Zhai (Lu Qi) while motorbiking through some back alleys. A deal is struck with Zhai’s neighbors whereby Qian and his shrewish wife (Liu Xin) bring round a hot lunch for the old man every day. Emotionally distanced from his stern military dad (Zhu Lei), Qian forms a de facto son-father relationship with Zhai which is later abruptly ended. Lu grounds the movie as the irascible but kindly Zhai, and pic draws a convincing, now almost vanished, world of Beijing backyards and old houses. Warm, melancholic score is a trifle overcooked.