A wonderful surprise from a little movie that could, Xiaoshuai Wang’s 11 Flowers is a beautiful look at the gifts Chinese cinema can provide. A classy, poignant tale that resonates loudly and enchants the most tender parts of the human soul.
The film takes place in 1975, the final year of the Cultural Revolution, telling the story of Wang Han, an eleven year old boy who begs his mother for a white shirt. It’s unbelievable a concept or garment seemingly so unimportant especially when revolving an entire plot around it, can be so profound and masterfully created. As his school’s best gymnast, Han leads the daily calisthenics for his entire student body. When his teacher suggests this honor of leading the school deserves a new white shirt as oppose to the school’s regulatory blue one, Wang Han begins an obsession with his new garment.
A wonderful exploration of a child being introduced to not only adulthood but the ugly face of violence and abuse thanks to the raw and powerful young performance of Liu Wenquing. Tenderly executed and as powerful as previous adolescent turns like Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland (2004), Wenquing has such a strong hold on young Wang Han, it’s baffling how he can connect to the emotional epicenter of such a layered character. A ferocious turn by Yen Ni, who plays Mother, will be sure to raise eyebrows and contend as one of the year’s finest performances so far. She rides the line of the emotional equivalent of Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball (2001), a doomed, complex woman with layers of hurt, love, and anguish. It’s an impressive and strikingly powerful performance by Yen.
Director Xiaoshuai Wang carefully sets up our experience with respect and dignity with the courageous co-writing efforts of Ni Lao. This is the first cinematic gift that 2013 has to offer. It’s a must-see and could tip a curiosity of foreign cinema into a full-fledged love affair. 11 Flowers stays with you so long after and a yearn to return to Wang Han will likely follow.
The film is now open in limited theaters.
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