Although Coming Home (2015) is adapted from the novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi (2011), written by Yan Geiling, the film holds only a speck of content to what the original novel offers. While Zhang Yimou has once again produced another bittersweet classic film, fans of the novel may feel discontent to how the film solely focuses on the romantic relationship between Lu Yanshi, played by Chen Daoming, and his wife Feng Wanyu , played by Gong Li. Many of you may have already gained a sense of familiarity and hold high expectations for this film for Zhang Yimou and Gong Li, as a duo, have created a series of successful and classical films in the past. Additionally, Zhang has previously adapted Yan’s novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing into the film The Flowers of War (2011).
The storyline is based in China during the Cultural Revolution; the film reveals how citizens lived under dictatorship of the Communist Party. A clear message that was presented was that citizens and the younger generation were taught to love and follow the Communist Party, even if the consequences led to betraying and rebelling against your family, this dictatorial style of education and governing jeopardizes Lu’s family. The plot mainly focuses on Feng forgetting Lu during his time in prison, the majority of the film is devoted to Lu’s attempts to make his wife remember him. While the storyline is incredibly simple and straightforward, Zhang is able to subtly express rich emotions and depth in each character.
To those who are familiar with Zhang’s productions, you’ll find this particular film nostalgic and similar to his earlier films, such as Raise the Red Lantern (1991). The similarities aren’t found within the plot and storyline but the melodramatic layout and pace of this film was a strong feature to how Zhang used to construct his films before he began producing blockbuster films. Zhang definitely returns to his minimalist and most primitive methods of storytelling for Coming Home. During recent years, Zhang became popular amongst younger audiences for his successful heartbreaking adaptation of Under the Hawthorn Tree (2010), while the film’s storyline was much like a Nicholas Spark’s novel and offered eventful romantic scenes leading to a critical heartbreaking climax, the film seemed less in depth and experienced. Nonetheless, Zhang proves his ability through his trademark methods in Coming Home which appears more subtle yet mature when compared to his rendition for Under the Hawthorn Tree.
The plot for Coming Home is very light and uneventful, yet there are a lot of emotions laid out through the characters interactions. Many may find the film to be slow and repetitive, however, this film is for those who possess the patience to appreciate what is under the surface of the story’s simplicity, as with his previous productions, Zhang’s productions aren’t always about what happens in his films but what should be understood and felt as the stories progress and conclude.
The type of romance that Zhang weaves into the film isn’t something you can find in contemporary films, he rings a bell that allows you to catch a glimpse of simple and unconditional love that sits on the borderline between familial love and romance. Chen Daoming and Gong Li’s ability to deliver their characters’ emotions were understated yet powerful. This film is a beautiful piece of art, it is evident that Zhang invested an incredible amount of effort in creating a film that sways his audience’s emotions. Coming Home is a rare bittersweet gem that you will unlikely come across in contemporary films. It does not offer romantic scenes that make your heart flutter nor does it contain a tear-jerking climax point, yet the production will make you ponder about how simple love can be even during difficult times.