In 1946, soon after the defeated
Japanese have withdrawn from China, life returns to nearly normal in a
small town, where Dai Liyan (Wu Jun) is the last remaining male member
of the Dai family. He lives in his slightly dilapidated rambling family
home with his 16 year old sister Xiu (Lu Sisi) and the old family
servant Lao Huang (Ye Xiao Keng), and his wife of eight years, Yuwen
(Hu Ying Fan). But they’ve slept in separate rooms since his illness –
suspected tuberculosis – has weakened him. Out of the blue, a visitor
arrives, and turns out to be Zhang Zhichen (Xin Bai Qing), Liyan’s old
schoolfriend, now a doctor in Shanghai. Zhichen is surprised to find
Liyan married to his pretty neighbour, who had a crush on him before he
left. His presence stirs emotions and memories and has a dramatic
effect on the entire household.

Li Tanji has re-created a delicate tale, superbly directed and performed.

1946, and the war against Japan is over. In a small town in China, its crumbling buildings ravaged by the recent conflict, Yuwen lives a rather lonely life. Yuwen is married to Dai Liyan and lives with him in the ruins of his house, along with his sister and a family servant, but the marriage is no longer what it was; Dai is sickly, not really ill, but psychologically scarred. The routine, melancholy lives of these people are altered forever by the arrival of Zhang Zhichen, a Shanghai doctor and Dai\'s oldest friend. Zhang didn\'t know about his friend\'s marriage, and when he meets Yuwen he realises that she was his first sweetheart, a girl he loved and lost and hasn\'t seen in years.

The original film version of Li Tianji\'s story was made by the veteran director Fei Mui in 1948; when the Communists took power in China, the film was frowned upon, probably because its characters are bourgeois. But, over the years, its importance in the history of Chinese cinema has become apparent, though Fei never worked again. Director Tian Zhuangzhuang knows what it\'s like to fall foul of the authorities; he was blacklisted for ten years after his great film, The Blue Kite, about the effect of the Cultural Revolution on an ordinary family, was banned in China; so it\'s interesting that Tian chose to remake Fei\'s classic as his comeback film. Tian cast unknown actors, all of them excellent, and, behind the camera, he worked in collaboration with the Taiwanese cameraman, Mark Lee, who photographed Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The result is an exquisitely beautiful and extremely subtle love story, handled with considerable skill and insight.