Coming Home, the latest film by director Zhang Yimou (world-famous for such masterpieces as Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern) tells the story of dissident Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming). Like half a million of his contemporaries, he was arrested for being a subversive intellectual during the Cultural Revolution (1950s) and spent 20 years in a labour camp. When he is finally released, he discovers that his wife Feng (Gong Li), who has spent all these years waiting for him, has amnesia and no longer recognises him.
Feng was happily married to Professor Lu until he was arrested. Their daughter Dandan grew up with no memories of her father. After many years, mother and daughter are informed that Lu has escaped, but the authorities demand that they report anything they come to hear of him. As Lu approaches their home, he meets his daughter. She’s disappointed because she’s just been passed over for the leading role in a state ballet. In an effort to secure the much-coveted role, she reports her father. Many years later Lu is released from the labour camp. When he returns home, his wife seems to want nothing to do with him. She has amnesia and doesn’t recognise him. Day in, day out she waits patiently for her husband. With the help of his daughter, whose guilt is eating away at her, Lu tries patiently and lovingly to restore Feng’s memory.
Coming Home, based on a book by Geling Yan, is a beautifully quiet, romantic drama about guilt, love and reconciliation set against the background of the Cultural Revolution. Once again, Zhang’s muse Gong Li shines as the female lead.