A social realist slice of everyday life, director Li Dongmei, in her feature film debut, revisits the memories of 1990s childhood days in a mountainous rural Chinese village.
It’s long, it’s slow, it’s fragmentary. Lingering shots of children walking steep footpaths on the way to school; a funeral cortege; family meals with no words spoken. Mama can be challenging viewing – the director is in no hurry to move the narrative forward with her limited dialogue. But it’s an immersive experience that settles into the rhythm of rural life. 12-year-old Xiaoxian, over a seven day period, reflects on the simplicity of a hard life where births, deaths and illness are the norm.
Evocative, at 134 minutes Mama is a little too indulgent, the meditative pace can, as one critic succinctly stated, see Dongmei in this memory exercise of reconstruction…forget the viewers.