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Seventeen Years (1999)

Cast: Liu Lin, Liu Lin, Li Jun, more...
Director: Zhang Yuan, Zhang Yuan
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Kino
Genre: Drama, Foreign, China, Quest, Road Movies
Running Time: 85 min.
Languages: Mandarin
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

In this drama, a woman seeks reconciliation with her family after an act of shocking violence, though forgiveness may not be forthcoming. Two divorced single parents (Liang Song and Le Yeping) marry, each bringing with them a teenage daughter. Xiaoqin (Li Jun), Mother's daughter, is strong-willed and proudly working-class, intending to get a job in a factory when she finishes school. Xiaolan (Liu Lin), a bit younger and Father's child, is more intellectual and hopes to go on to college. One day, a petty argument between the step-sisters over some change turns ugly; Xiaolan hits Xiaoqiun over the head with a stick, and to the shock of everyone Xiaoqiun dies. Xiaolan is convicted of murder and sentenced to a long stay in prison; after 17 years, a handful of prisoners are released on furlough for New Years, including Xiaolan. When Xiaolan's parents don't arrive to pick her up, she's left stranded; a guard, Chen Jie (Li Bingbing), takes pity on Xiaolan and offers to give her a ride home. However, they soon discover Xiaolan's home has been torn down and her folks have moved. Chen Jie is determined Xiaolan will spend New Year with her family, though Xiaolan herself starts to wonder if they have any desire to see her. Guonian Huijia marked something of a comeback for director Zhang Yuan after several projects that caused him run-ins with the Chinese government; this film was released concurrently with his documentary feature Crazy English. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Redemption (of the real variety) by talltale May 14, 2005 - 8:00 PM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
I'm not quite sure how I came across SEVENTEEN YEARS, but I suspect it might have been a recommendation from the GC rental site or the weekly e-mail update. Whatever--I am grateful because this small, short (80-minute) Chinese film is, from the first, involving and eventually quite moving, as it tracks a fractured family through events that will get no further mention here. (As usual, the on-site synopsis--which should always be read AFTER watching the film--lets every cat out of the bag, except for perhaps the final kitten, so ruining for the viewer most of the should-be surprises.)

Westerners will see here sides of China that are both expected and unusual--sometimes both at once. There's a small taste, too, of this country's changing economics and politics, along with immersion into a culture quite different but still possessing humane aspects that seem to cross all borders. Director Zhang Yuan doesn't push a single moment and the writing and acting are commendable, but it's the situation itself that seems most unusual--coupled with the country in which it takes place.

Since the theme of "Seventeen Years" is redemption, it might be salutary to compare the handling of it with the way the Canadian movie "Emile" tackles the same thing. Both films are short ("Emile" lasts ten minutes longer), but the latter is heavy-handed and obvious, with an unearned feel-good ending. In the exemplary "Seventeen Years," everything is earned: by the characters and by the moviemakers.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.14)
7 Votes
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