|2009 UK, France, Germany She, a Chinese|
Lu Huang as Mei (The 'She' of the title) does a fine job plowing her way through the endless misfortune (she did the same thing in Blind Mountain—a great film), so props to her. The story, however, which has a heart and good intentions, asks so much of its characters it stretches the limits of credulity creating distance instead of empathy. It begins to suggest that the circumstances "She" gets into are a result of personal selfishness, or stupidity, rather than exposing or exploring the difficult climb from rural Chinese village to downtown London.
I recommend this film because many of the realities and situations it points at are worth considering. I just wish it would have pointed at a few less and explored them more deeply, or with a whisper of hope. I've got nothing against bleak films, but She, A Chinese gives the impression that once the desire to break free of tradition and hopeless circumstances begins, a stream of unrelenting nausea is likely to follow. Which in turn begs the question of whether the scenarios depicted in the film are the result of the personal characteristics of this particular She, in a sense becoming a character study, or if they are some sort of warning siren or social commentary on what a bitch life is if you begin from a certain place, look a certain way, and have unrealistic expectations concerning what can be done about it.
Broken into discreet elements—the film is broken into discreet parts with the use of title cards that offer sometimes whimsical commentary on various events—the execution is pretty good, but the overall impact is diluted. The performances are solid and the director does a good job making things appear realistic so it might just be a case of truth being harder to get on board with than fiction.
Summary: This is the story of Mei, a young woman on a trip from East to West after her escape from her provincial Chinese village. Beginning in Chongqing and a disastrous factory job, Mei soon heads out for London and a marriage to an older man where her entrapment begins anew.