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:: Together (also known as Han Ni Zai Yiki)

Together is the story of a father Liu, and son Chun, who travel from a small country town to the big city of Beijing so that the young boy can further his studies in the violin. He has won every award he can in his town and his father dreams of a big future for him, whilst hiding a secret about his past. He persuades a ruffled, bitter teacher to take Chun on and together they teach each other about music and basic housekeeping. The film takes a sudden turn when Liu decides it is time for Chun to get another teacher, and what seemed a film about a young boy helping an older man out of his shell, changes to a battle between materialism and old fashioned values.

Beijing is depicted as a heartless place. Liu and Chun are befriended by a young woman who seems to make her living by dating rich men, and manipulated by a rich, emotionless violin teacher. It is the values of family and love that the characters finally return to, as well as the simpler village life where everyone knows each other.

Chen Kaige, best known for Farewell My Concubine, has tightened the scope of his story telling here, concentrating on an intimate, melodramatic tale without the lush visuals and epic scales of his previous films. As well as directing, he appears in the film as Professor Yu, the strict violin teacher who takes Chun to live with him in his Westernised, grey and modern apartment. One of the producers, Chen Hong, plays Lili, the neighbour who flirts from one rich man to the next, wanting only clothes, mobile phones and a nice apartment, but who shows a heart of gold when Chun is in trouble.

There is nothing bold or new about this film but it is told with sincerity and great emotion. The music is a highlight. Chun’s violin playing is heartfelt and beautiful. At 118 minutes it seems to take too long to tell its small story but there were sniffles in the cinema by the time it got to the end. And the last scene is truly touching.