Having played at the London Film festival last year, She, A Chinese tells the tale of Li Mei, as she endures the poverty of her barren home village up to her early adulthood. From here she seeks out new paths to the city life and finally moves out west to London.
While this is a fairly morbid tale, it is a fascinating look at a life with so few opportunities within it. Mei spends her time at home with a lot of time on her hands and very little ways to spend it. When not being berated by her mother she spends her time seeking the affections of the local boys – but when they want or take more than she is willing to give she grows very cold to the society around her.
Moving away, to where the real action is, she finds herself cutting hair and being groomed as a potential prostitute. By chance she manages to gain the attentions of a local bruiser with whom she has her very first love affair. To say things end badly is an understatement but from this midpoint in the story Mei takes the opportunity in front of her to travel and live and work in London. Whilst on a group tour she simply slinks away to get her new life started. Of course this means working in various low pay jobs and crammed into a small room to sleep with many other people.
From here she has to perfect her English and find a way to get a bank account open so she can start to get paid properly. Her methods in doing so are something that is perhaps becoming more common than one might think.
Her endeavours to find her place in the world continue, but seem to hit one obstacle after the other. This is mostly the emphasis of the story. Even when set in China, the dialogue (especially from Mei) is very light which adds to the emotional dislocation of her perspective on the world around her. The camera does all the story telling as does the slow and seemingly uninvolved actress playing Mei (Huang Lu).
The film seems like it is moving very slowly – but when you consider the amount of scenes that transpire across both countries you realise that it is a very economical script for a 90 minute film. It isn’t by any means a happy tale, but one of realism. One to think about.