Review: ‘The Story of Lotus’

A fairly standard rural Chinese drama, centered on the travails of a young widow, "The Story of Lotus" is notable for the unmelodramatic treatment of potentially melodramatic material, and crisp lensing in the Wuyi mountains of northern Fujian province. Solid, mid-range fare is good fodder for audience-friendly fests and worth a look by Asiaphiles.

A fairly standard rural Chinese drama, centered on the travails of a young widow, “The Story of Lotus” is notable for the unmelodramatic treatment of potentially melodramatic material, and beautifully crisp lensing in the Wuyi mountains of northern Fujian province. Solid, mid-range fare is good fodder for audience-friendly fests and worth a look by Asiaphiles. It’s several notches above helmer Qi Jian’s previous sports-centered pics, “Female Coach & Male Player” (aka “Team Spirit”) and “Baseball Boys.”

Widowed by a quarry accident, Lotus (Bian Xiaoxiao, limpidly graceful) is left to raise her small baby on the tea-drying farm owned by her unfriendly father-in-law, Sanbao (Li Xinmin, in pic’s strongest perf). Tricked by the oily quarry manager (Lin Peng) out of a decent compensation but befriended by a young, divorced bus driver (Wang Junyi), Lotus is torn between being a single mother or finding a new father for her child. Four-character story is shot through with moralistic underpinnings but is naturally played, especially in scenes where Lotus and Sanbao gradually work out a way to co-exist. Pic’s sole technical blip is Zhang Shaotong’s overwrought music score.

The Story of Lotus

Production

A Fujian China Film Studio production. (International sales: FCFS, Fuzhou.) Produced by Yao Wentai. Executive producer, Zhuo Jiarui. Directed by Qi Jian. Screenplay, Qiu Shi, Li Pingping, based on the novella "The New Widow" (Xin gua) by Tao Shaohong.

Crew

Camera (color), Li Ming, Zhang Hao; editor, Zhou Xinxia; music, Zhang Shaotong; art director, Yu Qiang. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Asia), Aug. 31, 2003. Mandarin dialogue. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Bian Xiaoxiao, Li Xinmin, Wang Junyi, Lin Peng.

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