Friday, November 25, 2011

One A Week Reviews #47: Aftershock

As Thanksgiving was just yesterday, I got to thinking about the family I'm so grateful to have. This film also made me think about them, and just how blessed a life I've lived. I can't recommend this fascinating family tragedy highly enough - originally reviewed for

Official Synopsis:
Tangshan, 1976. Two seven-year-old twins are buried under the rubble of the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century. The rescue team explains to their mother that freeing either child will almost certainly result in the death of the other. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses to save her son. Though left behind as dead, the little girl miraculously survives, unbeknownst to her brother and mother. Aftershock follows the family on their separate journeys over the course of the next 32, years as they build their lives forever shadowed by the traumatic experience of the earthquake and eventually face each other – and the decisions of the past.

The acclaimed epic that broke all box-office records in China, Aftershock features an all-star cast including Zhang Jingchu (Rush Hour 3) and Chen Daoming (Hero).

Our Take:
Reading the synopsis, one can jump to the conclusion that, as an epic, Aftershock could perhaps be a mass expression of communal grief. Reading up on the sheer death and damage toll the Tangshan earthquake took, one wonders how anyone who was alive to experience it could possibly ever completely recover. Officially, 240,000 people died and the entire city pretty much had to be rebuilt. According to Wikipedia (and, as always, take of that what you will), experts think two to three times that number may have died that day.

(How often did this film make me cry? Find out after the break...)

Aftershock succeeds as both an epic period piece and intimate family drama. After a quick domestic introduction to the Fang family, we -and they- are hit with the elaborate, terrifying (CGI) earthquake. After this first act special-effects showpiece, the story begins of how the repercussions affect everyone's lives from that point forward.

Her husband dead, Li Yuan must make the impossible choice between rescuing only son Da or daughter Deng from the rubble. Thinking her daughter dead, Li Yuan and her son carry on, while the abandoned Deng awakens to find her whole world changed. Deng is adopted by a military family while Da must find his way, hobbled by the loss of an arm during the earthquake. Following through their lives, filled with further losses, their own children, and eventual reunion after a book-ending earthquake, Aftershock is a Dickensian journey through thirty years in Red China writ both large and small.

Fan Xu, who plays Li Yuan, never seems melodramatic and her ever gesture cuts across language barriers. Her grief and survivor's guilt, however, embody the one drawback to this film. It's so grindingly heartbreaking for long swaths of time that you might find yourself checking out of this two hour plus drama. In the end, Aftershock is an intimate epic, anchored with a fine central performance.

Just keep your Kleenex handy. This reviewer's "Moved To Tears" count was an average of once every ten minutes.

Special Features:
Aftershock is presented widescreen and in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mandarin with English and Chinese Subtitles, the disc offers no special features.

A lengthy but moving family drama front-loaded with an amazing disaster sequence, Aftershock is an excellent, tragic film. CGI is used liberally in creating an epic scale, but the heart of the film lies in small, domestic moments. "Dickensian," moving and highly recommended.

Overall Picture:
Movie: A
Extras: D

No comments:

Post a Comment