Directed by: Bi Gan
Written by: Bi Gan
Starring: Huan Jue, Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, Lee Hong-chi, Chloe Maayan, Ming Dao
Home can be defined as a physical structure, a place, or even a person. What binds people to their homes are the memories that come with it whether it be positive or negative. At times those memories may be attached to love and on other occasions, it may be pain. Long Day’s Journey into Night tells its story through a non-linear lens and with some of the most beautiful dialogue I have ever seen.
After attending his father’s funeral in his hometown, Luo (Huang Jue) remembers the reasons why he fled and begins a search for a lost love that he lost when much younger. Through that process, Luo encounters many colorful characters that he enlists for help in this quest.
The plot of the story can simply be described but the genius of this film lies in the eloquence of its execution and how it goes about telling its story. Switching from past to present, this film creates a timeline that may not always be clear but still has emotional resonance, which comes down to the dialogue. The script of this story was lyrical and it bordered pure poetry as to how it described not only the surroundings but the emotion being experienced by the characters. It’s actually very devastating and the way the lyrical dialogue ties together this messy emotional story only makes it more potent. Human emotion and recollection are messy and sometimes it may not fall into place perfectly.
Visually, this film creates a landscape of pain and regret as shown in the color palettes. The colors are incredibly pronounced and jump off the screen to show what it represents to each of the characters. The hues and crispness of those colors truly stand out and that will be the lasting legacy of this film. The final hour comes together as a one-shot to breathtaking results, and it hits all of the emotional beats and captures it all the way to its very peculiar conclusion. It became baffling to me as I watched it and it just kept on going and it would not break from occurred on the screen.
Long Day’s Journey into Night also sports an incredible sound mix that further lured me into the story along with its score. It lies under the surface for much of the film, not rising in any prominence but as a reminder of the dread that accompanies this journey. The score helps question the purpose of this conquest that Luo embarks on and whether it may be worth it in the end. At a technical level, this film exceeds most of anything I have witnessed this year and its arthouse nature may make it inaccessible to some, but the overall story lands with emotional heft and resonance.
With this being the first Bi Gan film I have watched, I’m thrilled to see in what other ways he pushes the medium into new and exciting ways. Especially being in China, I cannot help but feel encouraged that artists like Gan provide such incredible content for other audiences to peer into their world and show the beauty of their country.