For China’s working population, the pull of jobs across the country means that tens of millions of children are left behind in the care of relatives. Ideally, family ties mean these children get the best care from their surrogate parents, yet in Huang Ji’s award-winning feature Egg and Stone, we see the failings of this situation to devastating effects.
On the surface, Honggui is a typical 14-year-old girl. Sullen and stone-faced, she’s been left in the care of her aunt and uncle, who have grown resentful after taking care of her for seven years. Honggui drifts through her days, meeting up with her only friend, Ajiu, a local boy who toils in a quarry and gives her rides on his dirt bike. However, at home in her room, Honggui engages in a nightly ritual that suggests deeper worries than the average teenager should.
Huang’s first feature, Egg and Stone created buzz at the International Film Festival Rotterdam because of its autobiographical content and its impressive aptitude. Across the board, Egg and Stone features finely composed cinematography shot in Huang’s hometown, incredible performances by non-actors, and measured storytelling that never turns maudlin or exploitative despite its dark subject matter. This is exquisite filmmaking by a bold new director.