Bucking its gung-ho, moralistic title, "An Appointment With Life" checks in as a gentle, autumnal movie about learning from other people and coming to terms with past mistakes. At the least, "Appointment" deserves modest fest dates.

Bucking its gung-ho, moralistic title, “An Appointment With Life” checks in as a gentle, autumnal movie about learning from other people and coming to terms with past mistakes. Throwing together a wide-eyed peasant woman and a retired city cop, reflective pic, marbled with moments of humor, has little conventional plot but engrosses with its odd-couple teaming, headed by a sturdy perf from Wang Kuirong as the policeman in search of forgiveness. At the least, “Appointment” deserves modest fest dates.

Gee-golly country girl Xia Shuimei (Zhang Han) takes the train from distant Gansu province to the big city of Nanjing, where a friend has found her a job in a hospital. But klutzy Xia isn’t cut out for life on the wards, so head doctor Fang Min (Gao Ying) transfers her to look after Fang’s ex-husband, Liu Fugui (Wang), at his home. Liu has terminal liver cancer but refuses to have an operation at Fang’s hospital.

However, the crusty old codger won’t even let Xia into his apartment at first, so the plucky peasant simply camps outside his front door. Early scenes of the two trying to get along as Xia orders Liu’s life and cleans his place up give likable actress Zhang her main chance before pic centers more on Liu’s problems.

Eight years ago, Liu mistakenly arrested the wrong guy and, by the time the error was corrected, the latter had fallen tragically ill in the holding cell. With his own days now numbered, Liu tracks down the man’s family to ask forgiveness, with surprises all round.

To its credit, pic never becomes a weepie. Supported by a mellow string and woodwind score by Huang Xiaoqiu, drama edges its way to a point where Liu learns to become less obsessed by forgiveness and personal guilt, and to take another chance at life.

Xia’s character becomes more sidelined in the second half, but chemistry between the two thesps is strong nevertheless. Helming by Sun Tie, who’s mostly worked on TV movies and drama series, is unadorned but gets the job down.

An Appointment With Life

China

Production

A China Film Group, Beijing Film Studio, China Movie Channel production. (International sales: China Film Group, Beijing.) Produced by Han Sanping. Directed by Sun Tie. Screenplay, Wei Ren, Sun Xiaohang.

Crew

Camera (color), Sun Ming; music, Huang Xiaoqiu; art director, Cui Wei; costumes, Ge Jing; sound (Dolby SRD). Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (Panorama), June 18, 2007. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Wang Kuirong, Zhang Han, Gao Ying, Lian Sai. (Mandarin dialogue)

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