Mountains May Depart

Mountains May Depart
Mountains May Depart
Directed by Jia Zhangke
Starring Tao Zhao,Yi Zhan, Sylvia Chang, Jin Dong Liang, Zijian Dong and Sanming Han
In UK Cinemas December 15th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

A film with ambitious scope, Mountains May Depart is, at its core, an intricate relationship drama. Spanning decades, Jia Zhangke’s movie uses motifs, symbolism, subtext and blatant commentary to examine China’s capitalistic boom alongside the effects of globalization on the country and its people. At the heart of the story is Tao, a woman we first meet at the centre of a volatile love triangle between her two male friends; coal-miner Liangzi and businessman Zhang. Against her father’s wishes, as well as the audience’s, Tao chooses capitalism over kindness and goes on to marry Zhang, while a heartbroken Liangzi flees town.

After 45 minutes of romantic drama, the title screen of ‘Mountains May Depart‘ finally appears, to the realization that this film is not at all what it at first appears to be. With conventional beginnings, the film then jumps 15 years to 2014 as we discover what the economic and social situation in China has done to these characters. The themes of capitalism and globalization become even bolder – Tao and Zhang now have a son whose name is “Dollar”. The subtlety becomes more and more overt through visuals, story, music and even use of technology. The film becomes much grander in scale in the second act, and by the third as it jumps another decade into the future, it becomes so bold that it’s hard to remember its humble beginnings as a romantic drama.

Throughout the film, across all decades, Zhao’s performance as both a young and middle-aged Tao is breathtaking. She is so captivating on screen, it’s no wonder she finds herself in the middle of such an aggressive love triangle. By the time she’s going through her later life crises, she’s matured with such naturalism, her performance is both devastating and inspiring.

Romance, drama, capitalism, globalization, cultural and generational alienation – Mountains May Depart covers a lot of ground. Director Jia Zhangke also breaks a lot of new ground with his boundary-pushing storytelling methods.


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