You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Sun Beaten Path

Handsomely photographed tale is predictably filled with mesmerizingly barren landscapes, long silent stretches and short moments of grace.

With: Yeshe Lhadruk, Lo Kyi, Kalzang Rinchen, Lhakyed Ma, Rekdsen Drolma, Yangshou Tso. (Tibetan, Mandarin dialogue)

On his way back from a pilgrimage to Lhasa, a grieving and guilt-ridden Tibetan-speaking youth falls in with a wise old man in “The Sun Beaten Path,” the helming debut of lenser-turned-director Sonthar Gyal. Handsomely photographed tale of this long walk home is predictably filled with mesmerizingly barren landscapes, long silent stretches and short moments of grace, though whether this all adds up to a work that’s profound or just something slow but pretty will depend on auds’ willingness to enlarge the microscopic morsels of narrative and character development offered. Given the rarity of Tibetan-language pics, forecast on the fest circuit looks sunny.

After an unexplained and apparently unrelated dreamlike opening scene, pic proper unspools on two timelines. The explanatory central event that separates the two is a motorcycle accident shown about 30 minutes in, and only then does it become clear that the unkempt, stone-faced loner seen walking home from Lhasa, Nima (Yeshe Lhadruk), is indeed the same person as the clean-shaven and expressive youngster who was involved in the accident that killed his mother (Lhakyed Ma).

Majority of the film simply observes Nima, racked by guilt and grief, as he walks on or close to the asphalted road that winds through the barren Gobi desert that will take him home. It emerges that he prostrated all the way to the capital, but clearly, the young man still feels he hasn’t quite paid enough for what he has done. Preferring to be left alone, Nima refuses every offer of a ride by passing drivers.

Not taking no for an answer is an old, leather-faced man (Lo Kyi), who, for reasons not entirely clear, takes it upon himself to accompany the lost youth. Some auds might praise the pic for not underlining its obvious (and often road-related) metaphors beyond the boy’s explanation that the “bus travels too fast and I don’t know where I’m going.” But Gyal doesn’t provide auds with much else either, making the pic one that either locks viewers out or asks them to attribute a lot of meaning to what amounts to very little in terms of narrative progression or character insight, especially since the outcome of the film can’t exactly be called a surprise.

Instances of humor, mainly involving the codger’s cell phone, are few and far between, and his sketchy backstory and propensity for dispensing wisdom and stories do little to move him away from the old-wise-man cliche. Young Lhadruk, a herdsman who debuts here as an actor, has a striking countenance but is given little to work with. (For the record, the Chinese versions of the leads’ names are often transcribed as Yixi Lanzhou and Luo Houjie for the young and old man respectively.)

As can be expected from the directorial debut of the cinematographer of “The Flying Kite,” “The Search” and “Old Dog” (the latter also with Kyi), pic often looks breathtaking. Gyal’s d.p. Wang Meng, shooting on the Red camera, mixes static setups and effective tracking shots that follow the wandering leads. Meng offers crisp images of the inhospitable, windswept mountain plateaus that may be sun-beaten but are captured here in cold and dry yellows and grays (except in an unconvincingly staged scene of a sudden downpour). The evocative sound design and few instances of music, both by Dukar Tserang, further complete the topnotch tech package.

Popular on Variety

The Sun Beaten Path


Production: A Bei Jing Fang Jin Television Media Co. production. (International sales: The Film Library, Hong Kong.) Produced by Sonthar Gyal, Li Xing, Lu Yuanyuan, Sang Jie. Executive producer, Li Jingyang. Directed, written by Sonthar Gyal.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Wang Meng; editor, Gyal, Qian Lengleng; music, Dukar Tserang; production designers, Pema Tsedan, Li Xing; art director, Phakpa Kyab; costume designer, Kyab; sound, Tserang. Reviewed at Hong Kong Film Festival (Asian Digital -- competing), March 28, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Yeshe Lhadruk, Lo Kyi, Kalzang Rinchen, Lhakyed Ma, Rekdsen Drolma, Yangshou Tso. (Tibetan, Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Germany's Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4

    German Indie Studio Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4 Blocks' Producer W&B TV

    Leonine has acquired “Dark” producer W&B TV from Endemol Shine. Fledgling German studio Leonine had already bought Wiedemann & Berg Film and established itself as a Munich-based movies, TV, and digital production and distribution group. It has now added the W&B TV unit to its roster. The production company is behind several big German dramas [...]

  • iHuman

    Cinephil Acquires AI-Themed Political Thriller Documentary 'iHuman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tel Aviv-based Cinephil has acquired worldwide rights to Tonje Hessen Schei’s (“Drone”) “iHuman,” a political thriller documentary about artificial intelligence, power and social control. U.S.-based sales agent ro*co films is representing North America on the film, which will have its world premiere in the Frontlight section of Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival. “iHuman” follows the [...]

  • 'Feast of the Seven Fishes' Review:

    Film Review: 'Feast of the Seven Fishes'

    Early on in “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” two characters debate the optimal way to decorate a house for Christmas. One favors an “understated” approach, with white lights and little more; the other argues that the holidays are no time for subtlety, advocating green, red and gold sparkle as far as the semi-blinded eye can [...]

  • Queen & Slim

    AFI Fest Film Review: 'Queen & Slim'

    Going to the movies can feel a lot like agreeing to a blind date: It’s normal to feel a little wary — but also a bit excited — at the potential before agreeing to spend two hours with characters you don’t know. If the film is any good, it wins you over early on, enough [...]

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content