Friday, December 12, 2008

Not One Less

"Not One Less" is a film of mixed proportions: it bathes in elegance and filth at the same time, and with moderate success. I enjoyed the film, but I do believe the only great scene in the film was the final scene involving kids coloring chalk on a chalkboard. But still I think: the film is very well done. It is the story of young substitute teacher Minzhi Wei (she plays herself, which I thought was a nice touch) and how she supports herself and teacher Gao (himself) as he goes away to tend to his mother. She is not a great teacher, not at all, in fact, but she's not a professional. She's loyal, but, in some ways, to her welfare: she must have every child that she started out with when Gao gets back, or else she will not receive a bonus ten yuan. Her loyalty is put to the test when Huike Zhang, a young troublemaking student, leaves to go get money. She goes after him, making her children move bricks to help her get fare, and even that won't work. She eventually hitchhikes there, and experiences the differences between small-town and citywide China. Her story touches so many that she gets enough money to build a bigger school, in a very inspiring ending. But the film struggles somewhat to hold it all together. Yimou Zhang, director of "Raise the Red Lantern," does a great job with the cinematography and score, but the writing and acting rely too much on reality to prosper on their own. If "Not One Less," was a documentary, it could work a lot better, but it pulls the more fictional aspects together as a feature film, some little details that couldn't be grasped in reality's films. The thing is that "Not One Less" is truly amazing, but I mean that more about the story than the movie. B

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