China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 88 mins.
Director: Kang Zhenghao 康正昊.
Over-stretched but interesting curio on alienated Beijing youth by a young newcomer.
Beijing, the present day. Twentysomething Zhang Xiaolei (Kang Zhenghao) is a loner and street brawler who ran away from home as a boy 12 years ago after being beaten by his father (Sun Haiying) for not studying. After finding him in a village, his father then spoiled him, but Zhang Xiaolei turned into a loner and street brawler who doesn’t get on with his married elder sister, Zhang Xiaoyun (Yu Nan), a lawyer. He spends his time practising boxing and fighting. One day, Zeng Yuan (Li Jiahao), a young man from Guangdong province, visits Zhang Xiaolei’s father with some surprising news. When Zhang Xiaolei is arrested for gang violence, his father visits him and asks Zhang Xiaoyun to help with the case.
Though it’s more a mood curio than than a developed drama, Lost Child 寻人奇事 is an interesting calling card by young first-time director Kang Zhenghao 康正昊, an Inner Mongolia-born, Beijing-based film buff who was previously involved in the financing of low-budget horror movie Lost in Panic Room 密室之不可告人 (2010) and the comedy House Mania 房不剩防 (2011). Pretty much a one-man show by the 24-year-old Kang, who produced, wrote, directed, starred in and edited the movie, it’s given credibility by a strong cast led by veteran Sun Haiying 孙海英 (Shanghai Women 假装没感觉, 2002; Sunflower 向日葵, 2005) and younger actress Yu Nan 余男 (Tuya’s Marriage 图雅的婚事, 2006; Wind Blast 西风烈, 2010).
The first 20 minutes is more like an abstract emotional collage, with the young and alienated Zhang Xiaolei spending his time fighting in deserted buildings and walking alone through Beijing’s back alleys. When a plot of sorts swims into focus – focused on Zhang Xiaolei’s relationship with his father, who first drove him away from home and now spoils him – it’s largely dependant on a clever twist. Kang is okay as the moody brat, though there’s little detail to his character beneath the surface; Yu does a lot with an underwritten role, as his elder sister who has little time for him. The film’s heart lies more in Sun’s relaxed performance, as the father who’s still trying to atone for a mistake he made years ago.
Cleanly shot in wintry Beijing by Zhang Qingping 张庆平, Lost Child would work equally well at half its length, or one hour maximum. But it’s well enough made on a technical level, and sufficiently different from the usual navel-gazing indie stuff, to keep an eye out for what Kang does next. The Chinese title roughly means “The Wonder of Searching for Someone”, and is a wordplay on the phrase for “missing person” 寻人启事, which is pronounced almost the same.
Presented by Hao Xing Zheng He International Culture Media (CN).
Script: Kang Zhenghao. Photography: Zhang Qingping. Editing: Kang Zhenghao. Art direction: Pang Chao. Music: Chang Shilei. Costumes: Wang Liu. Sound: Zheng Yi. Action: Fan Wanlong. Executive direction: Xie Yihang.
Cast: Kang Zhenghao (Zhang Xiaolei), Sun Haiying (Zhang, father), Yu Nan (Zhang Xiaoyun, elder sister), Lei Kesheng (Wang, Zhang’s elderly neighbour), Yang Lixin (judge), Ma Shuliang (Liu), Gao Ke (Mrs. Wang), Dai Jun (Jia, lawyer), Zhang Chao (Liu Wu, Zhang Xiaoyun’s husband), Li Jiahao (Zeng Yuan).
Premiere: Shanghai Film Festival (New Chinese Films), 22 Jun 2012.
Release: China, tba.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 27 Jun 2012.)