A curious chamber drama spun from the flimsiest material, “Their Noah’s Ark” (aka “The Boat”) spends a long time sailing in circles but holds attention through its precise direction and multiple cross-currents, which promise more than is largely delivered. There’s undoubtedly talent at work behind the lens, and pic could anchor at midrange fests as a curio.
It’s early fall 2006, after the worst flooding in 500 years has devastated southern Hunan province. A young woman, Liu Ye (Wang Jia), lives with her blind mother-in-law (Li Kunmian) in a house by a lake, whither two people — He Muzhuang (Yang Guanghua) and a young boy (Chen Ze) — are sent from a neighboring village to help out. The dotty mother-in-law can’t accept her son died in the floods, and appears to believe He is he. Meanwhile, He seems to know more than he’s saying about the man’s death, and carries a burden of guilt which he works off by helping the women. Strange currents of grief, suppressed sexuality and family yearning eddy around the characters in their dull lives, immaculately lensed and modally scored like an existential tone poem.