PG-13. Time: 1:49.
Mandarin with subtitles.
“Coming Home” is awash in drenching rain and tears, the kind that slip down cheeks or come with heaving sobs. It reunites actress Gong Li and director Zhang Yimou in a story of family, memory, the toll of China’s Cultural Revolution and love denied, delayed and delivered.
The star and director had collaborated on a string of arthouse hits, including “Raise the Red Lantern” and “To Live,” before she tried Hollywood for a time (“Chinese Box,” “Miami Vice”).
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In “Coming Home,” the story opens with news that Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming), an enemy of the party and separated from his family for 10 years, has escaped during a prison transfer at a nearby train station. His wife, Yu (Gong Li), and ballet student-daughter (Zhang Huiwen) are strictly forbidden from meeting him.
Middle school teacher Yu makes a fervid, furtive and futile attempt to reunite with her husband, but when the Cultural Revolution ends and “rehabilitated” Lu returns home, he is not greeted with open arms for reasons he never could have imagined. It is bittersweet at best, heartbreaking at worst.
“Coming Home” turns on three finely calibrated performances, with Gong Li the standout as a woman whose face betrays the feelings warring inside and the drowning confusion. Yu is buoyed by anticipation and dashed by disappointment again and again, in what is a cruel marriage of emotions exquisitely played out.
(At the Tivoli.)