Together with You
He ni zai yi qi
starring Tang Yun, Chen Hong, Chen Kaige, Liu Peiqi
screenplay by Xue Lu Xiao, Chen Kaige
directed by Chen Kaige
by Walter Chaw Sentimental and overlong if beautifully shot and carefully structured, Chen Kaige's latest film Together is, in most respects, very much like his other films despite a contemporary setting. Focusing on music as a metaphor for transcendence and release in a way that has become a recurring hallmark of his career (Life on a String, Farewell My Concubine), Together follows a gifted young violinist, Xiaochen (Tang Yun), who finds that music is his only means of expression. His blue-collar dad, Liu (Liu Peiqi), sacrifices everything to get Xiaochen the best violin teacher in Beijing, Jiang (Wang Zhiwen), while lovely chanteuse Lili (Kaige's real-life wife, Chen Hong) fills in for the semi-troubled boy's missing mother. A broad story told in bold strokes, Together's problem isn't its relatively low aspirations, narrow scope, and melodrama, but rather the way that it proceeds on a stuttering, serpentine course towards an ending that most of the audience will have already predicted as soon as the premise is firmly established. The performances are fine though unaided by laggard pacing and a screenplay loaded with non-sequiturs, cliché, and the subtle underpinnings of a traditional misogyny that sees all women as some variation of dingbat, whore, or mother. Still, Together is light and pocket enjoyable--all the more so in that respect for its comfortable predictability--and held together by an immensely likable performance from Peiqi as the long-suffering father. It doesn't have very much to say, but doesn't offend in its inconsequence. Together is airy as an Italian concerto, and almost as insubstantial.