Crosscurrent follows Gao Chun (Hao Qin) as he travels the longest river in mainland China. Accompanied by a book of poems, Gao Chun becomes captivated with An Lu (Zhilei Xin). An Lu feels driftless day in and day out. As she searches for a purpose, their lives intertwine in ways that will forever change both of them.
Chao Yang’s first film in about a decade and a half examines the isolation the two lead characters feel in immersive detail. With a few exceptions, Ping Bin Lee’s cinematography is exclusively wide shots. Gao Chun is walking up the dock from his boat when his partner talks to him about their uncle needing a job done quickly. The shot composition suggests how lonely he feels even when other people are with him. It perfectly encapsulates the emotional journey of Gao Chun.
“…their lives intertwine in ways that will forever change both of them.”
The entirety of Crosscurrent is filled with such imagery that will leave the audience in awe. The acting is equally as great. Hao Qin imbues his character with an underlying sense of hope, despite the melancholic actions he does. This makes watching Gao Chun’s transformation much more engaging than it would be if the film just had him feel defeated from the outset. Zhilei Xin is also quite a compelling presence. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a moment on the beach in which she is so fantastic it will break your heart.
Chao Yang’s observational style is broken up by the text of the poems appearing onscreen. No, I am not referencing the subtitles. Relevant passages from a few of the poems, to drive home a specific point or highlight an emotional arc show up on occasion. While this might sound intrusive, it works very well.
“…observational style is broken up by the text of the poems appearing onscreen.”
On the negative side of things is the runtime. Clocking in at around two hours, it gets bogged down in the middle. Some scenes feel repetitive or like padding. As engaging as the actors and the characters are, there are only so many wistful looks at the ocean one can take before they start to get old. However, Crosscurrent refinds its footing with 30 minutes to spare, and the ending is terrific.
Crosscurrent is not for everyone. But patient viewers will be rewarded with a moving journey of two people set adrift in the world. The actors are fantastic, and despite a few stumbles along the way, the story is affecting.