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Last Train Home - Movie Review - 2009

Heading Home For The Holidays In China

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Last Train Home - Movie Review - 2009

Chen and Zhang in the crowd, waiting for the 'Last Train Home'

Zeitgeist Films
In what filmmaker Lixin Fan characterizes as the world's largest human migration, some 130-million Chinese migrant workers leave their work-a-day lives in China's cities to travel to their homes in the impovrished countryside to celebrate the New Year with their families. To show us their arduous and frustrating journey and reveal the impact their long-term absence has on their families, the filmmaker follows Chen Suqin and her husband Zhang Changhua, as they return from their factory jobs in Guangzhou to their family home, a rural farm, where they reunite with their two children, who've been left in the care of Chen's mother.
In focusing on one family, Lixin Fan puts a human face on widespread hardship conditions in China. Like millions of others, Chen and Zhang have left their remote farm to work at factory jobs in the city, so they can support their children's education. Come New Year, they, like millions of others, travel home to see their children, who've remained on the farm to work the land while going to school. Their painfully bipolar family life is a problematic condition similarly found in millions of other contemporary Chinese families.

Lixin Fan establishes the big picture and widespread problem with sweeping and shocking shots of millions of people swarming the train stations, nearly trampling each other. Police use bull horns to guide the stampeding hoard, a loudspeaker blasts information about where lost parties can find each other and, when the wave of people has passed, a single child's shoe is left on the floor. One hopes the kid is safe and sound.

Chen and Zhang manage to board the train, but must then continue their journey by ferry, bus and on foot, toting heavy bags. At first, the family reunion seem grand. But their absence has caused deep tensions which soon surface -- and the documentary becomes an intimate and very moving family profile, a real life drama with elements that will haunt you.

Last Train Home engages you with one family's story, while informing you about a pervasive social and economic problem faced by millions of Chinese families. The cinematography is beautiful, the story and characters are compelling.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Last Train Home
  • Director: Lixin Fan
  • Release Date: US Theatrical, September 3, 2010
  • Running Time: 85 mins.
  • Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
  • Location: China
  • Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
  • Production Company: Canada Council For The Arts
  • Distribution: Zeitgeist Films
  • Trailer
  • Official Website

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