The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2020 Review - SPRING TIDE | The Movie Waffler

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Dublin International Film Festival 2020 Review - SPRING TIDE

spring tide review
Tensions rise between a mother and daughter in a cramped apartment.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Yang Lina

Starring: Hao Lei, Elaine Jin, Qu Junxi, Li Wenbo, Huang Shanghe

spring tide poster


A few years ago I lost my apartment in Dublin and was forced to live with my parents for nine months before I eventually found new accommodation in the city. Despite enjoying cordial relationships with my Mum and Dad, living as an adult with your parents isn't an experience I can recommend. The longer I stayed under their roof, the more simmering tensions began to boil over, and every little thing we did began to annoy the other party. I can only imagine how unbearable it must be for parents and adult children who hold each other in genuine contempt to live in such circumstances, as explored in writer/director Yang Lina's second narrative feature, Spring Tide.

spring tide review


In Lina's film, three generations of women live under each other's feet in a cramped urban apartment. 40-year-old journalist Jianbo (Hao Lei) lives between a fold out bed in a spare room of the home of her domineering mother Minglan (Elaine Jin), a dorm room she shares with medical students half her age, and the apartment of an ambiguously artistic and alcoholic lover. Jianbo's precocious nine-year-old daughter Wanting (Junxi Qu) lives with her grandmother, who has largely raised her in the absence of Jianbo.

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Jianbo and Minglan share a passive aggressive relationship of the sort that festers when a child is in the house and adults can't scream at one another. When visitors come for dinner, Minglan talks about the failures of her daughter as though she isn't seated right across the table. Jianbo merely remains silent, giving us the feeling that she's lost too many battles with her mother in the past to bother engaging anymore. Wise above her years, Wanting acts like a miniature Greek chorus, interjecting with her youthful observations regarding the atmosphere she finds herself growing up around.

spring tide review


As Spring Tide's loose to the point of messy narrative unfolds, we're fed more details regarding the roots of Jianbo and Minglan's relationship, though we're never sure whose version of events we should accept as fact. The film boasts two lengthy and conflicting monologues from its leads, both centred around Jianbo's father. Breaking down on the eve of consummating her relationship with her elderly lover Zhao (Li Wenbo), Minglan tells her potential future spouse of the physical abuse she endured at the hands of her husband. Later, Jianbo engages in a soliloquy that contradicts her mother's earlier confession, claiming Minglan invented the abuse and that her father was never anything but kind to his daughter. Whom to believe is left to the audience.

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Along with tackling the emotional toll of the global housing crisis, Lina's film explores the conflicts between boomers and their Gen X children. Many of the former view their kids as failures because they haven't made any of the advances in life that they had at the same age. What they often overlook is that they came of age at a time when governments looked after their citizens, when many of the essentials their children now struggle to afford were handed to them on a plate. The social lives of Minglan and her aging friends revolve largely around patriotism, rehearsing for a community pageant or drunkenly singing songs about Chairman Mao. There's no such communal attachment for Jianbo, who doesn't seem to have any real friends, just a few work acquaintances.

spring tide review


So global are the themes highlighted by Spring Tide that I suspect for a large portion of its audience it will prove uncomfortable viewing, a scratching of the sort of societal and interpersonal itches we often leave untended. It ends on a hopeful, surrealistic note, but we're left wondering if the cycle of enmity will continue when Wanting finds herself a grown woman with an aging, resentful mother in Jianbo. Few relationships have the potential for such unique cruelty as that of a mother and daughter.

A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




2020 film reviews