Zhang Yang's SHOWER
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This modern Chinese film is a welcome change from Summer blockbusters and slam-bang cacophony. It tells the sentimental story of a young businessman who visits his ailing father at his father’s old business location — a public bath — that is due to be torn down by urban renewal.
The young businessman, initially put off and disdainful of his father’s unsophisticated lifestyle and business, gradually becomes more accepting and intertwined into the day by day goings-on of the bath. At the same time he renews his acquaintance with his retarded brother, now adult, who helps his dad daily at the baths, unmindful that the father is growing weak and needs to retire.
The image is clear and colorful, and the soundtrack well done. Surround effects are used sparingly but to good effect — water splashing here, a cell phone ringing there.
I said that this movie is sentimental. I mean that in a positive, affectionate way. If you have ever seen parents weaken as they grow older yet insist on remaining independent, you’ll see what I mean. Plus, the father’s closeness to his customers — many old friends who have been visiting the bath for years — is well delineated, including several episodes where the father’s simple wisdom solves a complex relationship problem.
English subtitling is effective and detracts little from the enjoyment of the story. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Zhu Xu as the father, who also starred in KING OF MASKS. He is an actor of great professionalism and sensitivity, able to communicate strength and delicate vulnerability at nearly the same time.