Last Train Home Review

Words by Yazen Al Samen

‘Last Train Home’ is perhaps one of the best documentaries ever made. It is also one of the saddest and most compelling of all films. It makes an arduous struggle out of getting a train ticket. It redefines teenage rebellion and family problems. It is so personal, so simple, and so basic that you get intertwined into the world of these people, yet it manages to bring out a larger scene that is simply extraordinary.

The film centres on the Zhangs, a Chinese family, where the parents work in the industrial city of Guangdong, while their children, Qin and Yang, stay in their village, two thousand miles away, with their grandmother.

The film starts by declaring that what we about to witness is “the largest human migration ever”, as we get told that 130 million Chinese factory workers see their homes once a year (during Chinese new year), and during that time all of those 130 million go back to their homes in the villages all around China to see their loved one, before embarking to work again for another year.

The film was released in 2010, but it’s time spans from about 2005 to 2008’s world financial crisis. It starts by showing us the Zhangs trying to get back to their village for their holiday, as they struggle to find a train ticket amidst all the workers trying to get the trains.

Then we see them in their village, with their children, as we come to know that Qin, their teenage daughter, is delusional with her parents, only coming to regard them as income. She, and her brother and grandmother, only see them once year, and have been for nearly 15 years, that’s when they started working in the city. Qin loves her grandparents more, they raised here while her parents are away, so she takes matters into her own hands, and decides to leave school and go for work herself.

The film takes another level here, but we don’t notice it. It brings us a whole generation of China being tormented by China’s ascent into the elite in the world of economy, and that’s Qin’s generation. Growing without parents, with cynical attitudes, concerned with money only.

The film tries not to assign blame, and you would think that politics would cross your mind during such a movie. But you end up so absorbed and taken by the story of the Zhangs that all those details go out of the window.

The film is a great act of dedication by director Lixin Fan and his crew. They go deep into the miserable lives of the Zhangs and their ilk. They are patient and persistent and blend into the lives of their subjects. They capture moments of immense intimacy and emotion, as when Qin and her father confront each other during one of their meetings during the Chinese New Year, when her parents question her attitude towards them.

It’s fair to say that rarely something as haunting or personal as that scene has been captured on cameras, and it culminates the whole film, as we see a family in tatters over consequences that have risen out of their control, and then seeing them trying to rebuild, somehow.

‘Last Train Home’ is a great example of the power of movies, and the effectiveness of documentaries. Seeing a family like the Zhangs has a unifying power, this is a country that has become the talk of politics and economy in recent years and here we see what lies beneath, to its simple people. This is a great story, told magnificently, by someone who is not there to intrude but to understand and sympathize. This is a haunting movie.

A Little Taster – First Issue, Independent Film

Words by Naomi Jeffreys

The Rabbit Film Section is about to give you a few tasters of what to expect in YOUR University newspaper.

Aron Ralston: Hey there, Aron! Is it true that you didn’t tell anyone where you were going?

You may have a review of Danny Boyle’s Independent Film, 127 Hours

Anna: I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it, but I didn’t, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn’t realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half. I didn’t know, don’t know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me.

You may also have a review of the wonderful Independent Film, Like Crazy which stars Felicity Jones (Northanger Abbey) and the Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin (Fright Night) in this original romantic drama.

Keep an eye out for the First Issue and for these reviews, which are written by your Deputy Editor and your Editor of the Film Section.

The Dos and Dont’s Of Biographical Films Part II

Words by Benjamin Pinsent

A sub category of this point is Don’t make it about everything. It is easy to just follow the complete life of a person in a film and show the entire thing. An example of this is would be the 2010 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, the story of Ian Dury’s rise to fame as well as his relationship with his girlfriend, wife and son. Already it seems to be a jam packed film, but throw in Baxter Dury’s coming of age story and loads of real life events you end up with a crowded mess that doesn’t shed much light on the inner workings of a talented cripple.

Do cast on ability to act like an historical figure. Looking like someone else is a bonus but if an actor cannot act like the said person the whole film falls apart. The reason why Walk the LineSex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and The Kings Speech work is down to the lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix, Andy Serkis and Colin Firth, all act and sound like Johnny Cash, Ian Dury and George VI, the fact that they look like them as well is considered secondary. Colin Firth does not even look like the King yet his performance makes him believable.

Don’t think you can make a bio-pic about anyone. Like any film, it must contain interesting things and characters. The made for TV movie, William and Kate (2011) was a film that most can learn from in how not to make a movie. Instead of the fairy tale romance that the media was pushing for upon the announcement o the engagement what actually arrived was a typical romance with the only the name of the lead characters setting it apart from all the others.

A better example of a good bio-pic was the 2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It was an intriguing notion a game show host claiming to work as a CIA hitman. It was well shot and acted but most of all it is interesting and follows all the dos and don’ts of making a bio-pic.