Sometimes these "Look at me, I'm indie" projects deliberately frustrate so they don't accidentally get mistaken for commercial fare. Dirty locations, slow pace, downplaying of events should they happen to occur, and dizzying handheld camerawork all combine to give us the real world. Love must be lost, memories muddled, but hope will hang on by a thin thread. Zhou Xun is captivating as usual but her story is designed to disappoint rather than engage. This is a quality film to keep your street cred intact but not very pleasant to experience even if you do want alternative. It has a lot of great moments when it focuses itself enough for you to enjoy them. A director shouldn't have to jiggle and whip the camera around all the time to create an effect of intimacy or collusion with the viewer. Lou Ye overdid it with this one.
The river Suzhou that flows through Shanghai is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty, but also a meeting place for memories and secrets. Lou Ye, who spent his youth on the banks of the Suzhou, shows the river as a Chinese Styx, in which forgotten stories and mysteries come together. Mardar, a motorcycle courier in his mid-twenties, rides all over the city with all kinds of packages for his clients. He knows every inch and is successful thanks to the fact that he never asks questions. One day he is asked by a shady alcohol smuggler to deliver his sixteen-year-old daughter, Moudan, to her aunt. Mardar and Moudan grow fond of each other. But their tender happiness is disrupted when Moudan thinks that Mardar has kidnapped her for a ransom. She is so disappointed in him that she jumps off the bridge into the Suzhou River. Mardar is now suspected of murder. When a couple of years later he comes out of jail, he meets the dancer Meimei, an alter-ego of Moudan, and becomes fascinated by her.