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Shanghai, the 1930's: Mo (Zhang Ziyi) is a young woman dreaming of a
career in the movies - so when film producer Meng (Jiang Wen) promises to
make her dreams come true, Mo leaves her mother (Joan Chen), who is
strictly against her daughter becoming a movie actress, behind ... and
indeed, before long Mo's first film comes out and proves to be a success.
So it comes as no surprise that Mo falls inlove with Meng, and before you
know it, she is pregnant ... and he embezzles the film company's money and
flees to Hong Kong, leaving her behind heartbroken ...
Mo moves back in with her mother, who has since started an affair with
a hairdresser who even lives with her. But before long, the good
hairdresser shows more than a little interest in attractive Mo, but when
he realizes he can't get what he wants, he robs Mo's mother blind and
makes an escape. Heartbroken, Mo's mother kills heself ...
The 1950's: Mo (now played by Joan Chen) still lives in her mother's
house with her daughter Lili (Zhang Ziyi again), who has fallen in love
with a party member, Zou Jie (Lu Yi), marries him and goes to live
with him and his family, embracing the proletarian lifestyle ... but after
a short time, she realizes she can't stand being a proletarian and leaves
again, but not without asking him to move in with her and her mother ...
and even though he's a party member, he gives in, but has problems
adapting to Lili's burgeois lifestyle in return. The two want to have a
baby, but when Lili finds out she cannot become pregnant, they adopt
little flower ... but the kid changes Lili, and more and more she believes
that Zou Jie wants to abuse little flower - until Zou Jie can't take these
accusations anymore and throws himself in front of a train - which makes
Lili go mad ...
The 1980's: Mo, now an old woman (but still played by joan Chen) has
brought Flower (now she is played by Zhang Ziyi) as best as she could, but
that doesn't keep Flower from secretly marrying her fellow student Xia Du
(Liu Ye). However, then Xia Du goes to study in Japan for a year - and
while he falls in love with someone else and wants a divorce, Flower finds
out she is pregnant and refuses to grant him his divorce ... unless they
have sex one more time - which almost causes a miscarriage. Ultimately,
Flower finds herself as a pregnant woman all on her own (even Mo has died
in the meantime), and when her contractions start in the middle of a rainy
night and she can't find a cab to take her to the hospital, she has her
baby all alone, in the middle of the street ...
An film that just isn't up to its epic proportions: despite its 130
minutes of running time, the overall story of the film as well as its 3
narratives let alone all the subplots seem to be sadly underdeveloped -
and yet the movie feels a tad on the long side. So maybe it wasn't too
good an idea to make a feature film out of Su Tong's family saga in the
first place. On the plus side, the film is well-acted, and especially
Zhang Ziyi is (once again) amazing - but that's just not enough to save
the film ...