Struggling to sidestep the melodrama implicit in its true-story inspiration, "All Apologies" ends up being merely flat.

Struggling to sidestep the melodrama implicit in its true-story inspiration, “All Apologies” ends up being merely flat. Like 2009′s “Perfect Life,” Emily Tang’s third feature fails to capitalize on the potential of her 2001 debut, “Conjugation,” and while there’s an occasional fascination to this old-fashioned morality tale of two families locked into a situation at once tragic and absurd, the pic quickly fades following its gripping setup. Limited fest play seems likely for this resolutely minor-key item.

A young boy, the son of construction worker Yonggui (Cheng Taishen), is killed in a car accident while riding with grocer Henan (Gao Jin), himself crippled in the wreck. After learning his wife (Liang Jing) had herself sterilized without telling him, Yonggui drunkenly rapes Quaoyu (Yang Shuting), Henan’s wife, hoping to impregnate her and thus replace his son. Both Yonggui and Quaoyu, who decides to have the child, are the unwitting victims of Chinese political ideologies, but the pic lacks satirical bite. Dramatically, there are some subtle moments of piercing intensity, but little emotional drive. Treatment in general feels staid and unimaginative, lacking even the formal risks Tang took in “Perfect Life.”

All Apologies

China

Production

A Sunny Sky Culture and Media Investment, Beijing Xinghe Mingliang Media Investment production. (International sales: PAD Intl., Hong Kong.) Produced by Yang Jian, Chow Keung. Executive producer, Yang Jian, Zhao Haiguang. Co-producers, Zhu Peifan, Deng Liwei, Wang Tongjun. Directed by Emily Tang. Screenplay, Han Jie, Emily Tang, Dong Fang.

Crew

Camera (color), Lai Yiu Fai; editor, Chow Keung, Baek Seung-hoon; music, Roger Lin; art director, William Kwok; sound (Dolby Digital), Dong Xu. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 25, 2012. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Cheng Taishen, Yang Shuting, Liang Jing, Gao Jin. (Mandarin dialogue)

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