Following the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan province in 2008, Li Yu’s Buddha Mountain was the first film shot in Chengdu that reflected the impact of this catastrophic event. Building on her reputation as one of the most distinctive directors of her generation, Li chooses to focus on everyday life, rather than disaster, to illustrate the aftermath. As a result, she delivers a sharply observed drama about two generations in contemporary China facing unstoppable change.
Ding Bo (Chen Po Lin), a rebellious youth angry about his father’s remarriage, spends most of his nights getting drunk with his best friends Nanfeng (Fan Bingbing) and Fatso (Fei Long). Working dead-end jobs after failing to get into college, they decide to move into an apartment with Madam Chang (Sylvia Chang), a retired Chinese Opera singer suffering from depression following the death of her son. Despite many clashes amongst them, a near-tragedy brings them together. As Chang advises them on family problems, insecurities, and heartbreak, they help her overcome her grief. Together, they travel to Buddha Mountain to rebuild a temple completely destroyed by the earthquake, as they also attempt to rebuild their own shattered lives.
Taiwanese actress Chang, who has been away from the big screen for four years, gives a deeply moving performance as a grieving mother consumed by anger she cannot release. Fang, whose award-winning performance is both bold and vulnerable, proves she is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars in China today.
Li is a master of capturing the complexities of human interaction in everyday life and skilful at building a deep connection between the audience and the film’s characters. Buddha Mountain is a captivating journey that is equally haunting and hopeful.
– Vicci Ho