Walking Past the Future 路過未來 (2017) - China
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Director Li Ruijin fifth film remains his most accessible to date and commercially casted A-List actress Yang Zishan in an against type and best career performance. Filmed largely in the southern city of Shenzhen, famously on the border with Hong Kong, we see a sad and bleak story about the struggling working class that becomes impacted with the slow down of the Chinese economy. It’s refreshing to see a film show the real struggle of many in China, rather than painting the overtly rich people and their luxurious lifestyles. Instead, we see an ordinary family facing one misfortune after another as Zishan’s parents got laid off on the same day, only to return to their “rural hometown” with their former land already taken by others and no longer fitting in anywhere.
Yang Zishan headlines the film with plenty of presence as she produces a largely understated performance where she is faced with the dilemma of exchanging her health for money by participating in high risk medicine trials to pay for a house deposit for her family. It’s a dire film with many consequences for every action and almost an unforgiving look on the new China as “rural migrants” struggles to find a place to belong. Potential love interest played by newcomer Fang Yin shines as he show layers in his performance from initially not caring for his recruits for the medical trials to understand the consequences of his actions. The final scene on the train back home, as he consume the instant noodles, with Zishan motionless, all in the midst of Chinese rural backdrop remains one of those lingering cinematic finishes.
All in all, “Walking Past the Future” which premiered in competition at last year’s Cannes film festival, contains plenty of beautiful landscapes and cityscapes as director Li Ruijin slowly brings the audience into the characters’ extremely bleak and often hopeless situations. There are very little hope for a better future as we see the working class struggles to live and survive. It’s a far cry from those villagers whose home gets reclaim by the government with large sums of cash and now found wealth. Instead we see originally people going about their lives and any quick cash they attempt to earn, ends up with far worst consequences. I enjoyed this film, the mood and situations, this is certainly Li Ruijin’s most accessible film and also its most bleak.
I rated it 8/10