The Old Town Girls Image

The Old Town Girls

By Ray Lobo | December 13, 2022

The setting for The Old Town Girls, an industrial city, gives off a gray moroseness. It is the type of place young people want to leave as soon as they have a chance. Given the early signs of dereliction, one can only imagine that in a few decades, the city will be mostly abandoned. And it’s precisely abandonment that is at the heart of director/co-writer Yu Shen’s crime drama.

Shui Qing (Gengxi Li) is a teenage schoolgirl that was abandoned at a young age by her mother, Qu Ting (Regina Wan). Qu Ting unexpectantly shows up one day driving a nice car, wearing posh clothing, and has a haughty attitude that no longer fits her hometown. She clumsily attempts to reconnect with her estranged daughter. By fits and starts, the two start getting closer. There are, however, shady individuals in Qu Ting’s past that will not allow her to start her life afresh. The pressure exerted by these shady individuals compels Qu Ting and Shui Qing to carry out a criminal plot involving two of Shui Qing’s schoolmates.

“…pressure exerted by these shady individuals compels Qu Ting and Shui Qing to carry out a criminal plot…”

Once again, Chinese cinema impresses by delivering yet another drama of the kind Hollywood used to produce before it got seduced by the siren calls of box office returns and franchises. On the surface, The Old Town Girls is a tale about a mother, a daughter, and a crime involving several town members. The subtext, however, hints at something more significant. One sees a clear class division — both in terms of outward appearance and attitude — between the people living in the town and Qu Ting. The decision to chase glamor, money, and a career left a wound in her daughter. It is precisely this tension between higher values — nation, family, and place in history — and the pursuit of money that China is currently grappling with.

Shen, who co-wrote the film with Yujie Qiu, succeeds in constructing a suspenseful drama without adding unnecessary fluff. The plot at the heart of the story is not complicated, which is just fine. It allows the filmmaker to focus on the setting and character development. Regina Wan excels in her portrayal of a woman torn between a glamorous albeit dark past and someone trying to regain the essence of her life, her daughter.

The Old Town Girls is about the consequences of decisions. Qu Ting made the decision to pursue money over her daughter. China is still deciding on its future.

The Old Town Girls (2022)

Directed: Yu Shen

Written: Yujie Qiu, Yu Shen

Starring: Regina Wan, Gengxi Li, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

The Old Town Girls Image

"…succeeds in constructing a suspenseful drama without adding unnecessary fluff."

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