Film review: Together

Published: Friday, Aug. 8 2003 8:19 a.m. MDT

"Together" has one of more ironic movie titles we've seen, since this Chinese drama is so scattered, so full of pointless digressions, that it never really comes together.

Consequently, while the film does have an appealing sweetness to it, it's pretty forgettable lightweight fare, which ultimately lacks the impact it should have had.

As such, it's just another disappointment from director Chen Kaige, who seems to alternate good movies ("Farewell My Concubine" and "The Emperor and the Assassin") with duds ("Temptress Moon" and last year's English-language "Killing Me Softly").

This type of simple material eludes him. It's as if he didn't trust the basic story line and kept trying to make it more complex, deeper than it needs to be.

There's no reason for that, as it's a familiar but appealing story, one that revolves around the relationship between Xiaochun (Tang Yun), a 13-year-old violin prodigy, and his father Liu Cheng (Liu Peiqi).

Living in the sticks may be appropriate for Liu and his rather simple ways, but it isn't exactly conducive to Xiaochun's musical training. So he takes the boy to Beijing, where he hopes to enroll him in a music school.

Needless to say, both are fish out of water there. Liu learns several harsh lessons about favoritism and how the music world operates. Meanwhile, Xiaochun is getting frustrated because his teacher (Wang Zhiwen) has him cleaning around the house rather than practicing.

Xiaochun also befriends Lili (Chen Hong), a beautiful neighbor, and loses his focus and interest in music altogether. Things don't get any easier when his father finds the boy a new teacher (Chen Kaige, doing double-duty) who's more concerned with results.

Director Chen has a hard time tying all these things together; the attempts to tell back stories for the music teachers and Lili are especially ill-conceived. Although he does make good use of the musical score (which includes original compositions by Zhao Lin, as well as some classical pieces).

And the cast is pretty solid. Newcomer Tang and screen veteran Liu are convincing as father and son, while Wang's character is one of the few supporting turns that deserves more screen time.

"Together" is rated PG for scattered use of mild profanity (religious), some mildly vulgar humor (bodily functions), brief violence (a marketplace scuffle) and brief drug content (prescription use). Running time: 117 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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