On My Way
China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 95 mins.
Directors: Mai Yonglin 麦咏麟 [Gary Mak], Li Yuan 李远.
Generic but excellently packaged kid’s movie is smoothly entertaining.
Beijing, the present day, winter. Pesky, 10-year-old Li Xiaotian (Miao Yaning) gets terrible marks at school but has a hidden talent for athletics, much to the exasperation of his single father, Li Feixiong (Chang Cheng), who scrapes a living selling _shaguo_ (earthenware pot casseroles) which Li Xiaotian secretly delivers with his running skills. Li Xiaotian dreams of beating his school’s 400-metre champion, rich kid Ma Xiao (Kang Shengwen), and is encouraged by both his adult backstreets friend Big Eyes (Tian Liang) and his teacher, Cai (Qu Shuangshuang). He also dreams of having a proper mother – after his birth mother abandoned the family when he was born – and encourages his father to date Liu Yidan (Hu Jing), a dance teacher across the way.
A delightful surprise that melds Mainland on-camera and Hong Kong off-camera talent, On My Way 跑出一片天 is a totally generic but smoothly packaged family film that doesn’t put a foot wrong. Stuffed with cameos by Olympic sporting stars and Mainland showbiz personalities (actress Yang Mi 杨幂 pops up for one line), the aspirational comedy-drama about a pesky 10-year-old Beijing boy who dreams of winning a running race – plus matching his single father up with the pretty dancing teacher across the road – is helped along by not taking itself too seriously and having a child star (12-year-old Miao Yaning 苗雅宁) who’s lively and unbrattish.
The film is the unlikely spawn of Hong Kong journeyman director Mai Yonglin 麦咏麟 [Gary Mak] (Bar Paradise 美丽酒吧, 2005; Undying Heart 死心不息, 2006) and Mainland writer-director Li Yuan 李远, who debuted with the action-comedy Coming Back 回马枪 (2011), with Hong Kong’s Ren Dahua 任达华 [Simon Yam] and Taiwan’s Yi Nengjing 伊能静 [Annie Yi] and Gao Jie 高捷 [Jack Kao]. With clean photography by Hong Kong’s ace d.p. Huang Yuetai 黄岳泰 [Arthur Wong] (Painted Skin: The Resurrection 画皮II, 2012), smooth, tight editing by Liang Guorong 梁国荣 [Jacky Leung] and dance-like scoring by composer Wei Qiliang 韦启良 [Tommy Wai], On My Way hums along like a well-tuned limousine, without being unnecessarily showy on the technical side. Just when the plot is becoming too predictable, it throws in a “night-running” sequence (at the 40-minute mark) and a charming dance sequence (half-an-hour later) that keep things alive.
The front-of-camera Mainland talent adopts a light, wry tone that keeps the film’s idealised portrait of Beijing hutong and school life bearable – from Chang Cheng 常铖 as the boy’s hard-working father, through Hu Jing 胡静 (The Love Clinic 爱情维修站, 2010) as the perky dance teacher, to Olympic diver-turned-actor Tian Liang (The Fantastic Water Babes 出水芙蓉, 2010) as the boy’s secret coach. The Chinese title literally means “Running Out One Day”.
Presented by H&R Century Pictures (CN).
Script: Li Yuan, Deng Zishan [Etienne Doux]. Photography: Huang Yuetai [Arthur Wong]. Editing: Liang Guorong [Jacky Leung]. Music: Wei Qiliang [Tommy Wai]. Production design: Huang Jia’neng [Eddy Wong]. Art direction: Li Longyin. Costumes: Zhang Cheng. Sound: Zhao Nan, Lin Xuelin. Action: Jiang Guohua. Visual effects: Andy Chen (Huayu Tianfu Digital Technology). Executive directors: Tang Wenxiang, Zhang Kaizhe.
Cast: Miao Yaning (Li Xiaotian), Tian Liang (Da Yanzi/Big Eyes/Xing Feng), Chang Cheng (Li Feixiong, Li Xiaotian’s father), Hu Jing (Liu Yidan, dance teacher), Qu Shuangshuang (Cai, schoolteacher), Wang Kexin (Luo Li, Li Xiaotian’s taller schoolfriend), He Xiaoyu (Chen Yuanbo, Li Xiaotian’s schoolfriend with glasses), Fan Shaohuang [Louis Fan] (Da Wu, Cantonese martial artist), Duan Junhao (Dai Sheng), Fu Hai (Old Cai), Kang Shengwen (Ma Xiao), Wu Tingye (Ma Xiao’s father), Qian Hong (Ma Xiao’s mother), Gao Zheng (school head), Zou Yufei (birthday party girl), Bao Dazhi (bicycle repairer), He Shengming (night-runner judge), Yang Mi (night-runner Scorpio), Du Yize (night-runner King Arthur), Qi Wei (night-runner Cindy), Xu Song (night-runner guest), Bai Liuxi (night-runner Spider), Zhu Xiaohui (night-runner Viking), Feng Jing’en (broadcaster), Yue Xiaojun (taxi driver), Lai Xi (vegetable seller), Liu Xin (Ti Wa), Liu Yin, Lai Yuan, Weng Jing, Wu Baobao (dance students), Ji Li (uncle), Gong Cuiying (granny), Meng Shuxin, Wang Xingyuan (fat boys), Ji Kaile (Left Dharma), Niu Boyong (Right Dharma), Gao Min, Zhang Guozheng, Yang Lin, Zhong Ling, Kui Yuanyuan, Yang Yang (Olympic champions).
Release: China, 1 Jun 2012.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 10 Jul 2012.)