The Road Home
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Starring Zhang Ziyi, Sun Honglei, Zheng Hoa
In a Glorious People’s Cultural Revolution long, long ago, happy smiling peasants in colorful country garb lead happy lives in the small town of Sanhetun, far, far away. Schoolteacher Luo Yusheng (Sun Honglei) arrived to bring some education to this remote hamlet, and the people took no time in erecting a schoolhouse and spread the cost of feeding him among every resident. Now it’s 40 years and a government or two later, and Luo has died of old age and complications of a blizzard. His son Luo Changyu (Zheng Hoa) returns to settle the affairs. The widow Zhao Di (Zhao Yuelin) wants his body carried back for burial — an old custom and superstition that keeps the soul from being lost in the afterlife. As Chanygu reasons with his mother, the story of her romance and courtship romance unfolds in an elaborate Technicolor flashback — the young Zhao Di (Zhang Ziyi) was the most beautiful maiden in the village, and her part of building the school house was to weave the honorary Lucky Red Banner hung in the rafters. Immediately struck with Luo’s charm, she falls in love until their courtship is interrupted by Luo’s removal to the city for political questioning. It takes two years for the system to allow them to rejoin, but the love persists. Chanygu and the mayor arrange to have the corpse carried back, which draws a vast group of Luo’s former students to the funerary precession.
The story is simple and immensely touching, with young, chaste lovers simply out waiting the disinterested cruelty of fate. There are no rivalries, there are no evil people keeping them apart, and only a disinterested political system stands in their path. Present day scenes are shot in monochrome, while the reminiscence of youth bursts forth in brilliant Technicolor. Every frame could grace an art calendar, and the hills and farm life make you want to start your own commune. The story is simple and idealized as any child’s romance, yet the people populating it are alive and caring and you want to be with them. The resolution touching and complete. The Road Home will move you.