Modest in the least engaging sense of the term, Wayne Wang’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is so slender and unassuming that it registers only as a pleasantly forgettable triviality. Based on a short story by Yiyun Li (who wrote the screenplay) that has scarcely enough substance to warrant a feature adaptation, Wang’s film explores the tense relationship between divorcé Yilan (Faye Yu) and her father, Mr. Shi (Henry O), a former rocket scientist and communist “true believer” who’s visiting his daughter in America with the hope of helping her recover from her recent break-up. Wang’s sharp compositions convey the acute friction between child and father, but once established, there’s little else to his film save for some familiar examples of cultural and generational divisions, which become apparent as lonely Mr. Shi roams about Yilan’s apartment complex, snooping through her personal belongings and chatting with a bikinied blonde and the building manager. Just as the atmosphere of graceful tranquility is broken up by some sparse piano, Mr. Shi’s sense of alienation from his daughter and modern American culture is alleviated by his daily conversations with an Iranian woman (Vida Ghahremani) at the local park, their expressive communication and shared melancholy overcoming language barriers. Bolstered by a fine, muted performance by O that makes up for the somewhat unconvincing, stilted turn by Yu, Wang’s portrait of disconnection eventually leads to revelations (about both father and daughter) that in turn lead to reconciliation. Though the director’s HD cinematography has a flatness that keeps his drama at a chilly remove, it’s ultimately the proceedings’ lack of originality and energy that proves incapacitating, making this subtle, respectable film feel pretty flimsy.
- Magnolia Pictures
- 83 min
- Wayne Wang
- Yiyun Lee
- Henry O, Faye Yu, Vida Ghahremani, Pasha Lynchikoff
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