A Simple Goodbye
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
In this piercing drama, Degena Yun pulls triple duty as director, screenwriter and star. She plays Shanshan, a woman in her early 20s who’s back in Beijing after an aborted attempt at studying in the UK. Her parents are separated, but with Dad (Tu Men) stricken with lung cancer they’re trying to live together again. It’s not going well: the family is ridden by resentments large and small and, as the movie progresses, we see its members negotiate between anger and the abiding love that can keep families together, in spirit if not in fact.
Yun has a great feel for emotion and for the things in our lives that block and conceal it. This is a film of many small gestures, each magnified by the camera’s patient gaze. Even when the characters explode in anger, they seem to do so surrounded by stillness—by a tranquility that must at last be shattered. There’s a fragile sense of serenity here and it’s that quality, along with the measured pace, the subtle sketching of family dynamics and the overall precision, that recalls masters like Chekhov and Ozu. In the end, though, this is a film as unique as its creator: intimate, urgent and very personal.