The recent film from writer/director Yang Zhang can’t match the warmth, emotion & humanistic humor of SHOWER/’99, one of the great Father & Sons films, but that’s no reason to miss this charmer. Something of a tall tale, it’s a Road Pic, steeped in pitch-black humor, about a middle-aged construction worker who drags his best pal across much of China trying to get the guy home. The gimmick is that the ‘pal’ is dead, a corpse heading home one last time for a proper family burial . . . if they make it. Propped up on a bus bench or seated at a diner, rolled along the highway inside a tractor tire or draped over his friend’s back, the gags and set pieces are as old as the hills they pass. ‘Grieving’ at a stranger’s funeral just to get a meal; finding the only honorable guy on the bus is the hold-up man; a comical suicide attempt; the kindness of strangers & the cons that leave you flat broke. There’s a certain comfort in watching these old tropes getting aired out in such an alien culture, it freshens them up. It’s true that as the small incidents pile up, things get too convenient (just to keep the plot moving) and sentimental, problems not seen in SHOWER, but Zhang doesn’t try to hide his manipulations, playing them straight, which helps take the curse off. And he’s worked up a swell, fact-based twist ending that gets us out without having to wrap things up too neatly.
DOUBLE-BILL: Of course, SHOWER is what you’ll want to see. But this long trek home also brought Harry Langdon’s silent classic TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP/’26 to mind.