Beneath the clumsy, meller-ish title lurks a surprisingly unmelodramatic pic in “Gone Is the One Who Held Me Dearest in the World.” Based on an autobiographical novel about a middle-aged woman caring for –and trying to bond with — her dying, fractious mother, solid first picture by writer-director Ma Xiaoying treats its emotional subject with relative objectivity. Film has strong potential for ethnic webs.
He (Siqin Gaowa), a 50-year-old, successful writer, witnesses the death of her mother (Huang Suying); next, pic flashes back to how she got there. Ma has done her best to smooth the original novel (written in the form of a diary) into a conventional narrative, but it’s still basically episodic as it details the mother’s worsening mental problems, their diagnosis, her decision to go for an operation and — the most substantial section — her apparent recovery and sudden decline. Ma’s directing style is unaffected, giving plenty of space to the actors, among whom Huang is terrific as the feisty, argumentative old mother. However, Siqin Gaowa, despite a physically and emotionally busy perf, makes a rather cold protag.