Portraying the new China as a land both of hard times and new opportunities, Wang Guangli’s docu-drama “Go for Broke” has six Shanghai citizens play themselves in the true story of how they deal with sudden unemployment. Graced by naturalistic performances from the non-actors, the film maintains a surprisingly light, often amusing tone despite the sometimes bleak reality it depicts. As social drama, it never gathers much steam, making it an absorbing account of a city undergoing rapid change, but one unlikely to surface far beyond festivals.
Action chronicles the difficulties of a state shipyard worker who gets laid off and starts a renovation company with his similarly jobless friends. While things go well for a time, loan repayments, debt collectors, dishonest customers and construction scams soon push the new enterprise toward bankruptcy. A win on the state’s new televised lottery brings only momentary reprieve. Edited and shot in documentary style, with jump cuts and loose handheld camerawork that crowds in on the subjects, the unassuming film gently but effectively illustrates the urge for self-improvement and stability being bulldozed by ongoing economic upheaval.