After the successful release of “Fearless”, Jet Li had announced that it would be his last martial arts film. A year or two after, Li won the best actor award for his performance in “The Warlords”, a Chinese historical epic. He even joked about his performance; “…if I knew I could act, I never would’ve become an action star.” Well, even aging action stars need to have a change of pace and Jet Li seems to have become comfortable with the idea of not being an action hero. “Ocean Heaven” is a dramatic film that looks like an haughty tearjerker at first impression, but director-writer Xue Xiaolu surprises with an amount of simplicity and restrained execution. Jet Li doesn’t fight in this film, but plays the father of an autistic young man…
Wang Xincheng (Jet Li) is single parent who works in a ocean park and who takes care of his disabled child Dafu (Wen Zhang). Wang finds that he has a terminal illness and he only has a few months to live. Desperate and afraid for his son‘s future without him to attend to his needs, Wang tries to send them both to a watery grave but when Dafu manages to squirm free, Wang realizes that fate may have something else in store for them. Now father must learn from his son and his son must learn from his father. Wang must teach Dafu to tend to himself, while he begins a friendship with a traveling clown named Ling (Guey Lun-Mei) and Wang realizes that he has more friends than he thought he had…
“Ocean Heaven” is a film about everyday heroes and how parents prepare their children for the realities of the world and the challenges of a parent when their kid may not have the ability to be self-sufficient. I am not a parent myself, but I know how my folks prepared me for this world and I owe everything to them for being the man I am today. This film goes into the fear of a parent when they know their child can never be fully independent; what comes is the acceptance of the inevitable and to pray for the best. I would have to commend the direction by Xiaolu as the film sidesteps the temptation to become overwrought with emotions and rely on manipulative theatrics to touch its audience; the film also avoids being too sentimental and in turn the film becomes charming, grounded in its screenplay and quite real because of its simplicity.
For a film like this to work, the direction has to inspire an attachment from its audience. Jet Li is quite convincing as the ailing father who teaches his son to be independent. Li brings forth a calm and yet a man with a terrific sense of urgency in assuring his son’s future. I would have to agree with Madam Chai (Zhu Yuanyuan) when she says that Wang is the last good man she knows. Wang is a very sympathetic character, and it proves to be too easy to form an attachment to him that when he is gone, the viewer would miss him. Much of the film’s most dramatic moments come from Wang’s time with Dafu and Wen Zhang is just amazing as the son. Zhang is just as solid as can be expected, the viewer would feel his issues and his sense of helplessness. The film’s most effective scenes come from whether Dafu will learn or not, the viewer fears for his fate as I feared the inevitable. Most of Wang’s efforts come mostly from action than words; Wang shows rather than tell, but there were times that he did both. The supporting cast isn’t so bad either; the subplot between Dafu and Ling served up some charming moments; theirs was a friendship that felt real and realistic. It was a platonic relationship that is based on pure friendship and it wasn’t hard to buy into since their relationship was developed well despite the limited time in the screenplay.
Yes, the film does have some narrative clichés. There was a time when Dafu couldn’t learn a simple thing and the frustrations just flare from Wang’s face and when Dafu went missing, they appeared to have been ripped from the drama playbook. Thankfully, the direction was clever enough as to not dwell on those scenes too much. There are some forced sequences and of course the film is dedicated to Wang’s preparations, but I was happy that the film didn’t lose its footing and remained solid in its pacing. This is a film about a simple man trying to tend to his son, and it doesn‘t stray from its intentions.
“Ocean Heaven” is a film made by big-name stars and production staff who made the film because of its humanitarian messages. Even Christopher Doyle (Wang Kar-wei’s right hand man), composer Joe Hisaishi (Miyazaki’s composer in anime) doing its musical scores, and Jay Chou (the upcoming Green Hornet movie) who wrote the theme song were involved. This film had a lot of backing and it shows. Li was said to have only been paid a dollar to make this film, it proved that everyone cared about its subject matter. The film has great intentions as it is dedicated to the everyday heroes and we should give these stars a round of applause. "Ocean Heaven" is a touching, endearing drama which is a slice of everyday life.
In the past several years, there’s been a tremendous increase of awareness surrounding the nature of autism. To be correct, autism is medically known as, either, Autism or Autism Spectral Disorder (ASD); both terms define a group of disorders associated to the development of the human brain. Typically, persons suffering autism display difficulty in interacting socially; in fact, they may experience difficulty with any form of communication. They may engage in … more
Dafu is one of the million autism patients in China: he looks absent-minded,repeats other people’s words,swims with amazing ease,keeps everything at home in extact order...and maybe he is not totally aware of his mother’s death some years ago.Working in an aquarium,Wang Xincheng takes tender care of this tewnty-two-year-old son of his.With the generous help of the neighbors,the two live happily together.Yet,the father understands very well that in the end,he will have to depart from the world,leaving his son alone-and that day will come sooner than everyone is ready to believe.This film is an ode to a father wo is determined to find shelter for his son before it is too late.In the process,the boy achieves a measure of independence necessary for both to let go.