When Night Falls

When Night Falls


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Writer/director Ying Liang and dramatises the story of Yang Jia - who was subject to real-life rough justice at the hands of the Chinese court system - considering the action from the point of view of his mother Wang Jinmei (Nai An). The film is bookended by information concerning the case, which involves a petty crime, police brutality, Jia going on a cop killing rampage and the kangaroo court proceedings that follow. These segments unfold using photography and voice-over from Wang's perspective, rather than being dramatised, and they represent the most engaging aspects of the film. The introduction eloquently draws us into story, while the epilogue serves to give us an insight into the lasting psychological effects suffered by his mother.

The meat of the dramatisation, however, is problematic as, by taking us on the journey of Wang, it feels as though clumps of information are missing. While Yang Jia's story became famous in China, sparking protests on his behalf, most people in the West will bring little or no knowledge of his case to the film, meaning that everything from the crime to the timescale becomes as confusing to us as it is to Wang. While this may be, on the one hand, the perspective that the director was aiming for, on the other, it gives the film a chilly, unreachable feel.

Copy picture

If Yang suffers at the hands of the authorities, so does his mum, who is carted off to a mental asylum in a bid, the film suggests, to prevent her from providing any mitigation on her son's behalf. Released 143 days later, she returns to discover her opportunity to help him may have already slipped through her fingers.

We follow her over the next handful of days as she tries to work out what has happened, deal with the media and humanitarian scrum on her doorstep, while at the same time trying to grapple with the practicalities of getting the zips in her son's trousers exchanged for buttons.

The trouble is, with no sense of time and only limited information about he alleged crime - dispensed in unweildy chunks - it is hard to connect with this vulnerable woman who spends her days roaming around in a pair of tartan slippers. The suggestion is of a world, if not wholly against her, then at best impotent in the face of the state. Nai puts in an understated performance as Wang, but Ying coats many of the scenes in heavy symbolism - from an encounter in Yang's bedroom with a bird, to a photocopier breakdown. With a glacial pace that matches the film's cold feel, I was left longing to see Ai Weiwei's, presumably more straightforward documentary about the case, One Recluse, instead.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2013
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Rough justice in China, based on a true story.

Director: Ying Liang

Writer: Ying Liang

Starring: Nai An, Kate Wen, Sun Ming

Year: 2012

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: South Korea, China


EIFF 2013

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