Movie Review: Last Train Home (2009)

Film: Last Train Home (2009)
Stars: Suqin Chen, Changhua Zhan, Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang
Director: Lixin Fan

Approximately 130 million of China’s workforce returns once a year to their rural homes, only to return again to the city once the New Year holiday is over. It’s considered the largest human migration on the planet. This documentary focuses on a working couple, which has a boy and girl back home in the country, being raised by a grandmother. ¬†They have been making this journey for 16 years, and as a result, have relationships with their children which would be expected of any absentee parent. Mother obsesses over the education and advancement of her children. Father knows nothing but work, unable to communicate effectively with his children. Young son chafes under the scrutiny of his grades, and wonders why he must continue to study hard. Teenage sister fumes over her life, wanting nothing more than her own freedom from the family’s condition. What the parents must endure when returning home is harrowing for us in the States to watch- the sheer mass of humanity in the stations and on the trains is an overwhelming sight. The level of patience and endurance required boggles the mind. The relationships between the family members, however, are surprisingly global- their reactions are much like anyone in similar situations would have. There is one scene of familial violence which I found difficult to watch. However, the fact this is displayed for us with such candor is an example of how truthful this film seems. There are few moments in which I felt the family was acting for a camera, which is difficult to do when one is in your face for years. Highly recommended. Grade: A-

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