Ximei Image


By Andrew Emerson | December 11, 2019

As Cohen and Ross ably show us, Ximei’s condition puts her at a significant disadvantage in daily life. Out of a mixture of ignorance and prejudice, most members of society shun her. Economically impoverished, she can’t afford medicines that would ameliorate her condition. And whenever she goes to the hospital for treatment, she has to put up with long wait times, poor service, and unsanitary facilities.

Perhaps the most chilling part about watching Ximei is seeing how she’s treated by the Chinese government. Far from taking an interest in her well-being, government officials view Ximei as a threat that needs to be constantly monitored. To that end, they assign her a guard whose job is to follow her around and make sure she doesn’t stir up “social unrest.” At one point, moreover, her town’s mayor shows up at her house and bullies her into canceling a vacation that she had planned to take in a nearby province.


“Perhaps the most chilling partis seeing how she’s treated by the Chinese government.”

Given the obstacles that Ximei regularly faces, Ross and Cohen could very well have chosen to maintain a pessimistic tone for the entirety of the film. But in spite of its grim subject matter, Ximei turns out to be just as uplifting as it is sobering. Far from remaining passive in the face of adversity, for instance, Ximei decides to set up a “halfway house” that provides food, shelter, and company for fellow AIDS patients. Midway through the film, moreover, Ximei also marries a man named Yang Yong.

I wouldn’t say that Ximei is perfect. In particular, the ending features a sentimentalism that sits poorly with the film’s otherwise nuanced tone. But this flaw notwithstanding, the film offers a thorough and compassionate study of an individual whose story too often gets ignored. Set alongside the protests in Hong Kong and the recent revelations about mass detentions in Xinjiang, the film reveals China to be a country whose prosperous façade masks deep discontent and ruthless oppression.

Ximei (2019)

Directed and Written: Andy Cohen, Gaylen Ross

Starring: Ximei, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Ximei Image

"…a thorough and compassionate study of an individual whose story too often gets ignored."

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