Venice 2014 – Out of Competition
Shenzhen, southern China. When their 3-year old son Tianpeng goes missing, Tian Wen-jun and his ex-wife, Lu Xiao-juan, find their ordinary lives thrown into complete turmoil. Overwhelmed with guilt, they struggle to cope with the neverending nightmare that most people would be unable to comprehend. They comb through half the country in search of their child but to no avail. The waiting is the hardest thing to endure but they persevere, clinging to the faintest glimmer of hope – even if it comes in the form of a conman’s lie. Hope is the only thing that gives them a reason to live.
Although they are divorced, they realize that once a man and a woman have a child together, they are inextricably linked forever. While on the road, they encounter Han De-zhong and his wife Fan Yun, another couple who lost their child. Han introduces Tian and Lu to a support group that is dedicated to locating missing children. Tian and Lu are both grateful and saddened to meet others in the same circumstances. The members of the group offer each other assistance and emotional support.
Still searching years later, Tian and Lu travel north to a remote village, where they have been tipped to find their long lost son, Tianpeng. After a near-violent struggle with the townsfolk, Tian and Lu return home with their son. But now 6, Peng has changed. He sees his biological parents as strangers. He is traumatized after being taken away from his new family.
Meanwhile, Li Hong-qin, Peng’s foster mother from the village, is determined to get the boy back. She arrives in the city and seeks help from a young lawyer. She will search for her last surviving relative, exposing long buried secrets…
Based on actual events in China for an insightful view into multiple layers of contemporary Chinese society's changing landscape. The incredible journey of two parents in search of their abducted son and their eventual encounter with his foster mother… Featuring some of China’s brightest stars: Zhao Wei (PAINTED SKIN), Huang Bo (COW, CRAZY STONE), Tong Dawei (THE CROSSING), Hao Lei (SUMMER PALACE), Zhang Yi (BEIJING LOVE STORY)… The emotional blockbuster from the acclaimed director of AMERICAN DREAMS IN CHINA, WU XIA, THE WARLORDS, PERHAPS LOVE and COMRADES: A LOVE STORY.
Baby abduction and trafficking are epidemic in China. The one-child policy put a premium on young male lives; the highly prized little boys couldn’t legally be bred in bulk, so many were stolen from parents who would do anything to get them back. In February, the government broke one ring, arresting nearly 1,100 traffickers, and saved 382 abducted children. Those big numbers can catch the world’s attention, but one story can touch the heart: That is director Peter Chan Ho-sun’s achievement in Dearest, the true tale of a man who lost his son, fought to get him back, then lived with the ambiguous consequences… Essentially an epic movie (Wen-jun’s story) and its intimate sequel (Hong-qin’s) in a single 2hr.10min. package, Dearest has some of the propulsive force of Chan’s martial-arts marvel Dragon / Wu Xia and the capacious heart of his Comrades, Almost a Love Story… Huang Bo, best known as a comic actor, invests a furious intensity in Wen-jun; but the exceptional performance is that of Zhao Wei, who became a star in China and Hong Kong by flashing her big brown eyes in a series of winsome dramas and farces. Here, playing a simple, rural woman with few tools to retrieve her children, Zhao Wei crafts a symphony of pathos and desperate strength. She embodies the movie’s belief that — deprived of the only thing they love, and resolved to fight for it — anyone can rise to heroic or tragic grandeur
— Mary Corliss, TIME
Based on a true story, Peter Ho-sun Chan's melodramatic tale of Chinese child abduction gets interesting the moment a conventional happy ending would normally arrive… at roughly the pic’s midway point, the movie takes a sharp turn into far more interesting, morally complex territory… “Dearest” hits audiences twice, aiming first for the heart and later for the head, as it raises intriguing questions… In a daring move, the film also withholds its strongest performer, actress Zhao Wei, until the midway point. Zhao brings contradictions and intrigue to her character. Though we have every reason to hate her, instead we feel for her situation, which takes her segment of the film into territory where by-the-book morality doesn’t necessarily seem to apply. A coda featuring footage of the cast alongside the real people that inspired their roles adds a nice closing touch…
— Peter Debruge, VARIETY
A drama with melodramatic flourishes, the film’s main aim is to tug at the heartstrings with its true-story premise of people separated from, and then desperately searching for, those they love most… Solid performances… The headlines-grabbing topic and local star power can only help its commercial prospects at home… The film impresses with its ugly vision of child abduction in contemporary China. It’s alarming to see how Chinese urbanites, broadcasting their pleas for any information about their children on TV and the Internet, get inundated by hundreds of calls from people who all claim they can help as long as they are paid first — with some even passing off other kids as the lost child… Star actress Zhao (Shaolin Soccer, Red Cliff), who recently also made a splash as a director with So Young, here suggests she’s the Chinese Juliette Binoche, able to imbue each new crying scene with slightly different emotions… Huang Bo, from the comedy hit Lost in Thailand, here shows he’s a more than capable dramatic actor as well, and Hao Lei, as his former wife, offers such a beautifully understated yet heartfelt performance that the crack of a smile that creeps onto her face when someone takes her hand feels like the equivalent of an entire stadium yelling for joy…
— Boyd Van Hoeji, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
An epic melodrama that hits all of the right emotional buttons… Huang Bo (who starred in local comedy hit Lost In Thailand) makes a great transition into more dramatic fare, while Hao Lei, as his former wife, is equally impressive and gives a gently moving performance that will strike a chord with audiences.
— Mark Adams, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL