Country Boy’s (Qix Chen) life is one of quiet servitude, dutifully bidding his time as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant as payment for being brought over from China. He shares a small room upstairs from the restaurant with fellow immigrants Bing (Jimmy Leung) and Ping (Yu Lew) who have pretty much settled into their routine of restaurant leftovers, cigarettes and porn. Then, after watching a program on TV he requests a book on New York from his boss and a dream is born.
Despite his claustrophobic and sweaty environs, Country Boy holds onto his dream of going to New York, enduring ridicule and abuse from both his roommates and his boss. Gradually he builds up the confidence to ask his boss for permission to visit New York but is met with indignation and violence. Seemingly defeated he starts to return to his room, but a gust of wind through the chimes out back reminds him of what is still out there.
Victor Quinaz’s directorial debut is a deceptively simple ode to the idea of never giving up, and Country Boy’s determination is rewarded in something of a twist ending. However, because Quinaz has done such a good job of emphasizing how confining Country Boy’s day to day existence is the viewer never feels cheated by the twist. New York is instead a symbol of relief and opportunity, something Country Boy never had at the restaurant.
Cinematographer Ben Gamble does a marvelous job of capturing the heat and claustrophobia of Country Boy’s life in crisp 16 mm and the ambient soundtrack creates an atmosphere of both fear and opportunity. Rounded out by solid performances by a cast of mostly newcomers, “Chinese Dream” is a compelling, confident debut.