Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
Though it’s set in the early 90s, it is hard not to read Li Yang’s searing suspense drama as a severely critical portrait of China now. With men far outnumbering women, especially in the countryside, brides are a valuable commodity. Con men promise work to lure Bai, a young city woman, into a trap. She wakes up in a drugged stupor to discover she has been sold as a wife to a poor farmer: he is a simpleton, his mother an avid jailer. The beauty of the mountain setting and the friendship of a small boy are all that make her entrapment bearable. Actress Huang Lu, in virtually every frame, captivates us as Bai pries back the layers of complicity in her slavery. Her mixture of naiveté and flinty resistance is both touching and terrifying, making this an edge-of-your-seat thriller of rare force. — BG.