Some stories are grand and vast, sweeping across multitudes and eras to deliver truly epic tales. But yet others are simple and profound, celebrating simple things in life that deeply resonate within us all. Zhang Yimou’s The Road Home is one of the latter films, hitting Blu-ray for the first time thanks to Imprint. A major milestone in China’s fifth generation of filmmakers, as well as a springboard to launch the career of mega-star Zhang Ziyi, The Road Home warms you on the inside, from the heart out.
Luo Yusheng (Sun Honglei) returns from the city to his home village in rural China to bury his father. His elderly mother, Zhao Di (Zhao Yulian) is emphatic that her husband’s coffin be returned to the village by foot so he can remember his way home. This ends the film’s first bookmark as Zhang Yimou shifts us from a black-and-white present to a vividly coloured past to illuminate the parents’ courtship and romance, where they are now respectively played by Zheng Hao and Zhang Ziyi. Zhao decides she wants to marry Luo, but he must depart for reasons left unclear (although if you know your 20th century history, you can probably guess) and Zhao must wait for him to return.
It’s a powerful film, basically guaranteed to make you cry as Zhao’s simple but powerful love for Luo — expressed as she waits for him to come back — hits so hard as a universal experience of missing a loved one. As Bilbo Baggins says, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” Here, Zhang Yimou brings poetry and deep romance to regular folks in regular lives and shows that powerful love stories sometimes need be no more than waiting for the love of your life to return to you.
For this disc, Imprint has resurrected the quality of a previously released Zhang Yimou box set and has quickly proved itself to be the definitive source for Zhang Yimou films among western boutique labels. Extras are limited; it’s essentially a cleaned-up version of the film with new subtitles. But that’s not a complaint: One of the best films from a great director is finally available and looks great.