Getting Home (2007)

2:07 PM

"If a person is not buried near home, he becomes a wandering ghost." In the 2007 Chinese black comedy, we follow Zhao, a construction worker with only good intentions as he transports his recently deceased friend across the vast China countryside. His destination is the Three Gorges, a massive dam project where the family and burial spot of poor, dead, Liu hopefully await him. What follows is a kind of buddy road trip movie of the strangest kind, being that there's no reliable form of transportation, and that the "buddy" happens to be rapidly decaying. I call it a buddy road trip movie though because as is often the case with the genre, the people met and experiences made along the way are the sum of its parts. It's not about the destination, it's about getting there, or in this case, getting home.

The timeline of our protagonist(s) exist in a relatively isolated space. Zhao receives guidance and supplies from the people he meets, but he is truly alone in his quest, and often faces his toughest trials and successes in the literal peaks and valleys of a sprawling, empty countryside. But  even in his darkest times, the sincere, but bumbling Zhao is a piece of comedy all on his own with his deeply etched laugh lines paired with a kind-hearted nature and clumsy condition. In Getting Home's funniest scenes, I might liken it to a drawn out version of Monty Python's famed Dead Parrot sketch, where each encounter prompts a "No [he]'s not dead, [he]'s resting!" when really "[He] has ceased to be!". And then in its most poignant scenes, encounters a wise old man rehearsing his future funeral, and a family of beekeepers bring the viewer back to a humble reality. No matter the person, each brief encounter acts a catalyst for the next step in Zhao's great journey.  And yet we can't help but feel as if the absolute virtuousness of Zhao's character equally affects each soul he meets. 

In the western world, black comedies aren't that difficult to come by (and something about self-depricating, death obsessed works especially speaks to the Brits?), but in Chinese cinema, the genre is in rather short supply. In that respect, Getting Home is a fairy unique work. I'm tempted to compare it to the 80s classic (and Rachel Green's actual favourite film) Weekend at Bernie's, but its brassy, loud nature clashes with the sincerity of former, only really mirroring each other in storyline similarity. Rather, this work is more of a marriage between Hitchcock's classic dark comedy, The Trouble with Harry and William Faulkner's novel (or James Franco's failed attempt at an adaptation) As I Lay Dying. The Trouble with Harry complements the chaotic and comedic constitution of Getting Home where As I Lay Dying does the same on a touching, deeply tragic level. The plot of Getting Home in any other form than its present one might come off as cheesy, but the rural nature of the work and the earnest intentions of our protagonist make for charm rather than cheese. 

Even after what feels like endless miles of green with no end in sight, Zhao never ceases to be engaging as he never gives up on his friend, or on the power of an upbeat spirit. Getting Home makes for a film that is funny, genuine and most importantly has a lot of heart...even if the heart is likely riddled with worms at this point. 

My rating: 7.5 cats out of 10

Dir. Yang Zhang
Starring Benshan ZhaoQiwen Hong
110 mins | Hong Kong

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