Stonewalling (2024)

Stonewalling (2024)

Life is transactional in this portrait of contemporary China

7.5

Movie

China, United States of America
English, Mandarin, Uighur
Drama
2024
FEMALE DIRECTOR, HUANG JI
Cui Chu, Huang Xiaoxiong, Liu Long
148 min

TLDR

The film started with the writer-director duo’s daughter asking them why they gave birth to her. Frankly, I would understand but not be happy if this was my parents’ answer.

What it's about

Urged to chase after opportunities and have a go-getter attitude, 20 year old Lynn’s prospects hang in the balance when she finds out she is pregnant.

The take

At two hours and nearly 30 minutes, Stonewalling is quite long. The third film from spouses Ryuji Otsuka and Huang Ji takes place in slow, slice-of-life moments, centered around a female lead that mostly doesn’t actively make choices for her own life, so it can feel frustrating to watch. But as the film unfolds, Lynn’s passivity turns out to be the tragically familiar surrender of today’s working class. Lynn tries to make choices to pay out her mother’s debt, to ensure that she’s not indebted herself, through jobs that commodify her youth, her beauty, and even her body, but each move consequently limits her next options. She tries to bargain for other solutions, but it turns out these solutions were never there in the first place. All she can do is quietly adapt, with each failed promise culminating into a baby’s cry.

What stands out

The direction. Stonewalling’s slice-of-life sequences feel reminiscent of the contemplative minimalist style that was popular in Asia in the 90s-early aughts, which highlights how much hasn’t changed for women in China today.

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