A modest tale of a teen son reconciling with his mother, “Shi Qi” gains depth from an understated perf by Joan Chen and makes unshowy use of its ethnic setting. Interesting first feature by mid-20s helmer Ji Cheng, from a script also written by youngsters, equips this for Asian film weeks showcasing fresh talent.
Set among the She minority in a hilly region of Zhejiang, story begins with a village celebration for teen Tianyi (Vision West), who’s going abroad to study. Tianyi character functions as a contrast to the main character, one of his old friends, Zhong Qiqi (Sam Chow) — aka Shi Qi (“Seventeen”) — who’s holed up at home. Alienated from his mom (Chen), who supposedly abandoned him at age 2 and took him back eight years later, Shi Qi feels he’s been robbed of life’s chances, and finally determines to leave his hometown. But mom comes along for the ride, leading to a gradual rapprochement and the revelation of a secret. Tan and dressed down, Chen makes a convincing minority character, and chemistry with Chow is unstagey. Tech side is clean and smooth, running time compact.