Like Douglas Sirk without the throw pillows, “Sunflower” is a shamelessly old-fashioned melodrama performed with such sincerity that resistance is futile. Following a troubled father-son relationship over more than 30 years in post-Cultural Revolution Beijing, the movie utilizes a simple dramatic structure to support a narrative filled with tumultuous social change.
In the first of its three distinct chapters, set in 1976, 9-year-old Xiangyang (Zhang Fan) finds his unruly, pleasurable existence halted by the return of his upright father, Gengnian (Sun Haiying). A painter who can no longer draw after six years in a labor camp, Gengnian furiously nurtures his son’s artistic talent despite the misgivings of his wife (a marvelous Joan Chen) and the violent rebellion of Xiangyang himself. The pattern for the next three decades has been set.
Written and directed by Zhang Yang, “Sunflower” parallels the upheavals in Xiangyang’s life with those of his country, exploring the tension between tradition and modernity with insight and intimacy. With each subsequent chapter Mr. Zhang deftly reveals the massive changes in the urban landscape, as high-rise buildings tower over communal courtyards and cars block the passage of Gengnian’s old bicycle. As Xiangyang struggles to fashion his own life, his quest reflects the hopes of an entire generation.
1.46GB | 1h 23m | 865×468 | mkv