Getting Home

“Getting Home” (luo ye gui gen: fallen leaves return to roots)

directed by Zhang Yang, 2007, China

Lao Zhao, Originally a peasant in his 50s from northern China, Lao Zhao came a long way to Shenzheng, a special and prosperous economic zone next to Hong Kong, with his fellow native, Liu Quanyou, who dies drinking after work in a construction site; as he has promised to his friend, now dead, he decides to bring him all the way back to his orignal home, so that his spirit does not wander the earth; he encounters many difficulties in handling the body and running into some unscrupulous characters. However, he also runs into many caring, compassionate individuals who look upon him with great admiration, and even help him during difficult times. His character can be described as simple, honest, and determined as well as many other positives; his journey home reflects critically on a changing society that has lost its roots and traditions in its rapid transformation into a commercial culture in which very few people can see beyond the color of green (money)

Robber, An interesting mix of honorable and petty, this man intends to rob everyone on the bus, leaving no room for sympathy or spared victims. However, once he is aware of Lao Zhao friend’s status and that he intends to bring his dead friend home, he is reminded of his own dishonorable dead of betraying his best friend a long time ago; he is ashamed of what he did, in such a striking contrast to what Lao Zhao is doing: not betraying his friend even after he is dead; this petty thief decides to spare both him and his dead friend whose loyalty is undoubtedly a rarety in the vast occean of doing everything for oneself

Elderly Man, feigns his own death in order to feel loved when the time actually does come, since he fears he will die alone due to having no family members left alive; the staged funeral, in which Lao Zhao pretends to be one of the mourners in order to feed himself, gives Zhao an opportunity to cry his eyes out for his friend’s unfortunate circumstances; the elderly man who startled Zhao when appearing in front of him, says that among all the mourners he is the only one genuinely crying at his funeral

Traveler, This young, happy-go-lucky cyclist on a journey to Tibet encounters Lao Zhao and helps him move his quickly decomposing friend in a wheel barrow; his exuberance and youthful vitality inspire Lao Zhao to forget his concerns and despair for a short time to briefly embrace life and its small pleasures; the chance meeting with this young cyclist brings out a poignant contrast (economic disparity) between those traveling for leisure and relaxation the one hand and those whose travels constitute exiles and displacement from their own homes on the other; their sharing of a cut of freshly brewed coffee allows the viewer a glimpse into the vast differences among fellow travelers on the road

Restaurant Boss and Gang, More of a gangster than a business man, this restaurant manager cares only that he makes profit and that his restaurant continues to progress. His thug-like demeanor comes into plain view when he encounters Lao Zhao as a gullible customer. When Lao Zhao has no money to pay for the outrageous fee for his meal, and not even his departed friend’s money can help him out, this boss and his gang of young men are quick to find out that his money is all counterfeit, something even Zhao himself does not know he has had it all this time in his possession; a minor social commentary on what is viewed to be genuine and what fake in modern China;

Beekeeper, Originally a factory worker, this caring gentleman quit his job to take care of his wife when she was almost fatally injured and horribly disfigured by an explosion in the factory where she used to work; he chose to become a beekeeper because the work, which requires them to travel constantly from one place in the country to another in search of the best blossom for the bee, will give his wife some much needed privacy (the veil) and will allow him to be alone with her often visited by suicidal thoughts; his devotion to his physically scarred and psychologically traumatized wife gives hope to Zhao who, likewise, is loyal to his dead friend and carrying him back to his home 

Beautician, This young woman, originally from the northeast like Zhao, goes about her daily life working in a local hair salon in the prosperous southern China; when visited by Zhao, she is mortified to find herself with a hopeless vagabond and his dead friend, trying to beg for her to make up his dead friend’s face before he returns home to his dead friend’s family; she is quickly handed a double edged sword as the local night police decides to pay her a surprise, late-night visit; decides to help out her fellow native in trouble, whom she calls her “uncle” and whose origins are not very different from that of hers

Policeman, On his nightly patrol he visits the local beautician to say hi, and inquire after her safety; romantically interested in her, but is put off by her temper and the fact that she takes practically no notice of her interest in him. He finds comfort in her “uncle” (Lao Zhao), as they discuss his love for her and his duty to protect the innocent, northerner (the beautician) from the corruption of the city that would, he fears, soon turn her into a prostitute;

Middle Aged Woman, Lao Zhao encounters this homeless, scavenger when they are both arrested while giving blood in an underground blood bank that preys on the homeless without any medical procedure; widow but with a son attending a famous southern university who, although taking her money from selling her blood, looks down upon her because she is a scavenger; It is later that she admits that not only is she without a home, but she has not seen her university attending son for two years due to the embarrassment he feels from being related to someone who is so impoverished; the two vagrants quickly become close companions and bonded by their personal situations and misfortunes

Truck Driver, On the outside he is hardened, and unwilling to bend to anyone’s reasoning or will, but on the inside this lonely truck driver is heart broken and in need of outside support in the worst wa, abandoned by his girl-friend. Lao Zhao, in his innocent and straight forwards way, breaks this man’s shell and helps him to find a solution to the unending misery he feels from loosing, what he thought, was true love


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