Heartfelt without the Hollywood wow
If it weren’t for the subtitles, “Together” could pass as a mainstream movie – one about a boy coming of age – without the token Hollywood ending.
The main flaw Aidan saw in “Together” was its relative predictability. But I think its unpredictable ending was its salvation.
Director Chen Kaige didn’t go for the typical Hollywood conclusion, yet he managed to pull off an emotionally rousing film. And, he threw in a surprising twist in the middle of the story.
Granted, the movie follows the poor-country-boy-proves-himself-in-the-big-city plot. It touches on the downtrodden-washed-up-music-teacher-meets-student-who-changes-his-life theme. It goes through the whole master-teacher-takes-student-under-his-wing relationship. And since it’s about a 13-year-old boy, it employs the typical adolescent rebellion before the protagonist discovers his values.
But the characters stay true to their nature throughout the film – without apology. Liu Cheng’s (the boy’s dad) actions appear a little too stereotypically country-bumpkinish at times, but isn’t that the point? It’s as if Kaige depicted the father’s character through a 13-year-old’s eyes. What young teen-ager doesn’t exaggerate his parents “embarrassing” traits? Cheng’s actions throughout the movie make the end even more touching.
The main flaws of the movie take place in the first half hour – which creeps by without giving the viewer a real reason to care about the characters – and the failure to place the white subtitles on a black background, so the viewer can actually read all of the text. If you make it through the slow start and the frustration of not catching every word (a common theme, it seems, in more artsy films), “Together” offers a satisfying experience.
Most movies don’t even attempt to come to terms with the often disparate drives of ambition and love. But “Together” stays true to its name, integrating the two in a tender way.
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