Published Jan 01, 2006With Together, the director of the acclaimed Chinese historical epics Farewell My Concubine and The Emperor and the Assassin has crafted a minor sentimental tale about the complex dynamics of longing and regret between father and son. Set against the emerging free market of modern post-cultural revolution Beijing, the movie has its earnest heart in the right place. But, despite the warm light flooding its mise en scene and the moist eyes of its characters, emotional connections fail to gel.
Liu Cheung is a poor country cook who dreams of transporting his son, young violin protégé Xiaochun, from the local talent contest circuit to the bright lights of the international stage. After moving to Beijing, he soon convinces a crusty, eccentric music teacher to take his son on as a pupil. Professor Jiang (a rakishly dishevelled Wang Zhiwen) lives in a tiny hovel filled with rescued stray cats, but he has no love of human contact. Xiaochun is unsure he wants to live his father's dream, but he plays along until he is torn away from both men and forced to move in with a rich, prestigious music teacher in order to succeed.
Together isn't without its charms and although his subplot is abruptly dropped, Zhiwen makes a charismatic mentor for the young boy. The cultural context of the "new" China is well drawn; music lessons mix with Lakers games as Mickey Mouse invades the Forbidden City. But Tang Yun, the 13-year-old wunderkind violinist who plays Xiaochun, is not a strong screen presence his playing may be superlative but his acting is as awkward as the film's strange pacing. As Xiaochun is taught during a lesson, technique devoid of feeling makes for less-than-beautiful music. Together may pour on the feeling, but its technique leaves something to be desired. (Lions Gate)