Aftershock (15)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/11/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances from a strong cast, even if it's occasionally a little manipulative.

What's it all about?
Directed by Xiaogang Feng (who has a deserved reputation as the Chinese Spielberg), Aftershock opens in Tangshan in 1976, where we spend some time with a happy family – wife Yuan Ni (Xu Fan), husband Fang Jiang (Guoqiang Zhang) and seven-year-old twins, girl Fang Deng and boy Fang Da – before a devastating earthquake kills the father and pins the twins under a concrete slab when their building collapses. Forced to choose which child to save, Yuan Ni rescues her son, but the decision will torment her for the rest of her life.

However, unbeknownst to Yuan Ni, Fang Deng survives and is adopted by a kindly couple (Jin Chen and Daoming Chen) who are part of the Red Army relief effort. As the years pass, Fang Deng (now played by Jingchu Zhang) resists any attempt to track down her family, haunted by hearing her mother make her fateful choice; meanwhile, the crippled Fang Da (now played by Li Chen) grows up feeling the pressure of his mother's decision.

The Good
The performances are excellent: the child actors are particularly adorable, which makes the early scenes utterly devastating. All three adult leads are superb and there's also strong support from Daoming Chen, who contributes a moving, likeable turn as Fang Deng's loving stepfather.

The special effects in the earthquake sequence are nothing short of astonishing; they're also brilliantly directed, with Feng ensuring that you're aware of each character's position throughout the heart stopping destruction (in real life, the earthquake killed nearly quarter of a million people). If anything, the earthquake sequence is too good, because the film has to work hard to top the devastating emotional impact of those scenes later on.

The Great
There is nothing wrong with melodrama per se, providing it is well written and effectively directed. To that end, Aftershock is undeniably manipulative, but Feng handles the emotional pay-offs extremely well and the finale is powerfully moving.

That said, there are some curious gaps in the narrative: for example, we don't see the rescue scene, a crucial emotional moment is left out and there's also a subplot with Fang Deng's boyfriend that gets completely ignored.

Worth seeing?
Aftershock is a well made, powerfully emotional drama with terrific special effects and superb performances from a strong cast. Highly recommended. Bring tissues.

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Aftershock (15)
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Content updated: 12/05/2012 10:29

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