Aftershock (唐山大地震) Movie Review

It is hard to believe Director Feng Xiaogang (“Assembly”, “If You Are the One”) could direct an emotional and serious movie, since he mostly writes and directs comedy movies. 

The movie “Aftershock” opens with an epic, tragic and realistic recreation of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed more than 240,000 people and left the village with nothing.

With cranes falling, buildings rumbling and collapsing and blood-spattered ground, this movie keeps you in suspense, wondering what will happen next throughout the movie.

After the earthquake, Li Yuan Ni [Xu Fan] finds out her twin son and daughter have been buried beneath a concrete slab, and she must decide which one to save.  Lifting the concrete slab will potentially kill both.  Under pressure, Li chose to save her son, Da Feng (Zhang Jiajun), leaving her daughter, Fang Deng (Zhang Zifeng) under the concrete to die.  But, Fang Deng astoundingly lived without her mother knowing and leaving her alone with a painful memory that haunts her forever.

The director, Feng Xiaogang did a great job portraying the idea of how important things are when they are gone.

Zhang Jingchu does an excellent job depicting the older Fang Deng by capturing the essence of a girl struggling through adulthood.  Also, actress Xu Fan, who plays Li Yuanni, does a brilliant job as a mother compared to other movies she was in.  In other movies, Xu Fan plays more of a funny person than an emotional person, which captivates the audience’s emotions in this movie.

But despite having strong actors that seize people’s attention, the plot was confusing. It left the audience hanging by a cliff when some dramatic things happen in the twin lives. The director gave too little information about the struggle the twins had to go through in their life, which left the audience baffled to know what will happen to them.  Instead of explaining, they just go into more details about the future of the twin’s life. Other than a confusing plot, the way the director recreated the scene of the Tangshan earthquake was remarkable because the scene was lively and authentic. 

Despite his background in comedy, Feng Xiaogang did a wonderful job directing this emotional and serious movie.  He kept it surreal and vigorous, without needing to push it too emotional. This movie is out of the ordinary and compelling and the English subtitles will keep you going without realizing you are watching a Chinese movie. 

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