We all must face up to our choices

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Pearl Chen

The decade fol­low­ing the splen­dor and fan­fare of the Bei­jing Olympics Games has seen in­cred­i­ble growth in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal. Ac­tress turned di­rec­tor Rene Liu’s poignant ro­man­tic fea­ture Us and Them tries to cap­ture the im­pact of the so­cioe­co­nomic process on the lives and men­tal tra­jec­to­ries of in­di­vid­u­als in its de­pic­tion of young dream chasers who ar­rive in the boom­ing cap­i­tal.

Liu’s ren­der­ing of young love and re­flec­tion comes with a sting­ing poignancy so strong that it pushed view­ers, many of them pro­fes­sion­als in their late 20s to mid-30s, to com­pare their own ex­pe­ri­ences with the pas­sion­ate yet fu­tile love be­tween Jian­qing and Xiaox­iao. The fe­male di­rec­tor’s sen­si­tive and sym­pa­thetic ap­proach to the sub­ject mat­ter rouses strong emo­tions, es­pe­cially among the many young peo­ple who’ve come to the city seek­ing a sim­i­lar fu­ture.

This re­al­ism-backed poignancy is distinctly dif­fer­ent from other TV and movie ren­di­tions of young peo­ple chas­ing their dreams in Bei­jing. In­stead of pre­sent­ing the fake high-spirit­ed­ness and op­ti­mism seen in other dra­matic de­pic­tions of con­tem­po­rary ur­ban life in China’s first-tier cities, Us and Them is true to life be­cause it shows the ir­re­versibil­ity of life’s big choices. It’s about what to do, how to do it,

with whom and the ir­re­vo­ca­bil­ity of such choices. Many peo­ple came out of the cinema teary-eyed and then posted about the film on their WeChat Mo­ments or Weibo. In this con­nec­tion, I tend to feel hope and op­ti­mism, as I see my coun­try­men in­tro­spect, ret­ro­spect and rec­on­cile with life’s many happenings and grow stronger men­tally to cope with the evolv­ing dy­nam­ics that are a part of China’s tremen­dous so­cial trans­for­ma­tion.

How­ever, I still have one is­sue with Liu’s first ad­ven­ture into movie di­rect­ing. It has to do with Jian­qing’s me­te­oric rise to be­come a gam­ing in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive. How come his suc­cess in the hard bat­tle­ground of the Chi­nese cap­i­tal was so easy? While un­der­stand­ing that there is room for a dra­matic sto­ry­line to pit both lives against each other, the many good souls sym­pa­thetic to­ward Jian­qing and Xiaox­iao must guard against this over ro­man­ti­ciza­tion.

Hard work, not sheer luck reigns in Bei­jing, although keep­ing hope alive and hav­ing the brav­ery to have dreams still help a lot.

What helps even bet­ter, I’d say, would be the ca­pac­ity to cher­ish the mo­ment, the things you have and the peo­ple around. This might rep­re­sent our ul­ti­mate path to rec­on­cil­ing the con­flict be­tween prac­ti­cal­i­ties and wish­ful think­ing and thus be­come the elixir to achiev­ing peace of mind in the bustling world.

Many years ago, Jian­qing and Xiaox­iao chose to let go, and their choices pro­voked us to think. Now, Jian­qing and Xiaox­iao have to learn to rec­on­cile and carry on with their lives. Even as movie­go­ers, I don’t think we have the right to judge what’s bet­ter or what might have been bet­ter for them. But we do have our own de­ci­sions to make ev­ery day about what to do, how to do it, and with whom to do it.

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