Published Jun 06, 2013Though given the laboured title of 1 Mile Above for presumably less spiritually-driven North American audiences, Du Jiayi's bit of inspirational, true story pap was titled Kora in its native country, referring to the Buddhist pilgrimage or meditative act of self-discovery. Ostensibly it defines the journey that Shuhou (Bryan Chang) takes after the untimely death of his brother, assuming his dream of biking from Lijiang to the Tibetan city of Lhasa despite an abundance of physical odds.
The unintended irony is that the decidedly more literal Western title, referring to the desired summit destination, indirectly represents the artifice of this highly contrived work of superficial enlightenment.
On the surface, Shuhou's physical quest is embodied via a series of woefully stylized montages, which distract more than they enlighten, giving a vague sense of spatial relation and goings-on via mountainside visuals, but mostly digressing with abstract, oft-corny and obvious visuals. His character progression is defined only by the very literal, almost ham-fisted bits of dialogue and static moments disseminated throughout, asserting that his initial indifference towards the kindness of a stranger met on his journey is indicative of spiritual misguidance.
From here, the upward journey and its many hardships teach him appreciation for the lessons learned from those he encounters, even when they're simply hormonal, in the case of a comely widow and her overly cherubic — primarily in sun-bleached visualized representation — son.
It's difficult to appreciate much of what is going on when narrative redundancies consistently hinder and, at times, obscure the rather standard progression of biking as metaphor for life. Eventually, 1 Mile Above does find reasonable footing in its later, more straightforward moments, following Shuhou from hospital to bike to an encounter with wild dogs in an almost competent cinematic fashion.
But by this point in the film, when every storytelling tactic employed has proven hollow, there's little engagement or investment in his outcome and ability to overcome inner and outer struggles. He's merely an empty vessel biking up a mountain with a generically defined arc, leaving only the occasional opulent shot of his surroundings to appeal on an aesthetic front. (Asia Releasing)