Ode to Spring Review – Chinese Exploration of Pandemic Ground Zero in Wuhan | Film
Jhis endless pandemic anthology film feels like it’s being stuffed with lectures on altruism, family responsibility, self-sacrifice and forbearance from fellow man by the Chinese government (which produced it). Located almost entirely in Wuhan – Covid Ground Zero – it is beautifully photographed, giving the gutted city a drowned, dystopian look. But its five cutesy segments contain virtually no worthwhile drama, and the whole thing feels more like a public information film than anything else.
First in his parade of paragons is Shanghai banker Nanfeng (Fang Yin), who came to Wuhan to propose to his ex-girlfriend Xiaoyu (Dongyu Zhou). But she’s isolated in the hospital, so he promises to take care of her mother who is in intensive care across town. In the second story, another gold star from the government goes to two migrant delivery men who help a child transport his sick grandmother to the hospital. Meanwhile, government official Wang (Jingchun Wang) must brush up on his diplomacy when Xiaomai (Jingmai Zhao of The Wandering Earth) annoys the neighbors with his piano playing. Back in the wards, two exhausted medical staff struggle to hold their families together as they try to save the life of a colleague. And, across town, young Le Le (Hangcheng Zhang), who lives in an apartment, bounces off the walls, possibly because of the diet of instant noodles his dad gives him.
This latest installment has at least a bit of humor and spark, even if it ends with paternal homilies to Nezha, a protective deity in Chinese folklore. Elsewhere, the film falls prey to the worst impulses of urban interconnection film, all messy platitudes instead of focused drama. It’s a kind of Covid-themed Crash, in which no personal tragedy can be dealt with with the infusion of a milky sentimental ballad on the soundtrack. You’d never know it was cast by five different directors, so the dominant aesthetic is innocuous (unlike the recent Battle of Changjin Lake, which all three directors clearly stood out for). The reliance of Chinese state film agencies on this kind of didactic wedge is the real problem here.