After the success reaped by his Summer At Grandpa’s, Hou Hsiao-hsien is back with another beautifully controlled and highly nostalgic picture of childhood, based on his own boyhood, a period coinciding with the last years of the Chinese revolution and establishment of an independent Taiwanese identity.
Not that politics have anything to do directly with this film. What the script is mostly concerned with is growing up in a lower middleclass family, culturally bridging between the ancient superstitions and the new modern ways of education. It is also about the economic struggle to keep afloat in those difficult years.
Mostly episodic in nature, the film impresses by its exquisite camerawork which suggests perfectly framed paintings.
Time is one of the essential elements of the story, the changing seasons contributing to establish moods and the passing years indicating a change in mentality. Time, however, may also be one of the film’s drawbacks, overlong at 137 minutes.