Tiny in scale and shot in an unadorned, realist manner, “Chen Mo and Meiting” is a beautifully observed, big-hearted romantic drama that’s restricted only by its budget and flawed only by its ending. First feature of Shanghai-born Liu Hao, 32, a Beijing Film Academy grad, announces a talent that could potentially bridge China’s arty and commercial extremes. Prior to specialized Eurowebs, festivals will provide a platform for the pic, which won a special mention from the Berlinale’s first-film jury.
Story is the simplest possible — the friendship between a quiet flower seller, Chen Mo, and a brassy hairdresser, Meiting. The two lost souls, with little money after Meiting has been fired, huddle together for mutual warmth in Chen’s tiny room, playing games and finding companionship. When Meiting disappears to start whoring, tragedy intervenes. Dialogue is minimal, much needs to be inferred about characters’ backgrounds, and the setting is bleak, wintry Beijing; but perfs by the two leads are so involving (burnished by a lyrical chamber score) that there’s little sense of the material being over-stretched, despite the jolting switch to melodrama later on. Blowup from 16mm is OK.