“It’s not all about the money, money, money”. Or is it? While Jessie J. wanted to pay with love in “Price Tag”, most of us still need to do it with our well-deserved money.
It doesn’t matter how many zeros our paycheck includes, there’s always room for one more. Especially when you’re younger. The Chinese teenage Peipei is certainly no exception to that as she dreams of being able to travel to Japan to see snow. But how does a sixteen-year-old girl afford that?
Well, first time director Bai Xue tells you that in her “The Crossing” (original title: Guo Chun Tian), a beautifully filmed coming-of-age movie with a criminal element to it.
Peipei (Huang Yao) has to cross the border almost every day, travelling from her home in the outskirts of China to her Hong Kong high school and back.
Together with her best friend Jo (Carmen Soup), she’s planning on spending Christmas holidays at a Japanese hot spring. There’s just one problem: Money. While Jo’s coming from a wealthy family, Peipei isn’t and the gambling addiction of her mother is certainly not helping.
Peipei is in desperate need of raising money and clearly her job as a waitress doesn’t do the trick. Luckily for her, the salvation is near and comes in the form of the handsome young Hao (Sunny Sun), who’s running an illegal smartphone smuggling ring. Helping them out will change Peipei’s life for good but maybe not the way she hoped for…
“The Crossing” is the directional debut from Bai Xue so the fact that the film got its world premiere at the Toronto international Film Festival last year is quite impressive and very well-deserved too.
Firstly, it’s because of the refined way of the camera usage. When the daily and innocent life of schoolgirl Peipei is being captured by the steady, calm and almost motionless camera, it feels like we’re just watching a documentary about the real and busy lives in China.
However, as soon as she’s caught up in the world of smuggling, uncertainty and dark activities, the documentary style changes into a more dramatic and action-style on. Twists, turns and even some frozen shots to increase the tension.
Alongside that fine camerawork, the combination of light and sounds add an even more authentic vibe to it. It seems that in “The Crossing”, there’s almost no extra light added from the filmmakers or at least it seems like that. Most of it comes from either the very bright (and clean) train sets by day or the massive billboards and big advertisements by night.
No bombastic, loud or powerful music. Just the sound of usual Chinese busy traffic, school bells, and cell phone ringtones. Are we on holiday in China? We think so. It’s just only when the dark sight of this story sets in, that the music becomes more upbeat which makes sure that the film has our attention, again.
Bai Xue isn’t the only one for whom this film means her debut, also for leading actress Huang Yao, is “The Crossing” her first taste of the film world. Knowing that this is her first movie, her performance is even more fabulous. She makes you want to travel with her, meet her friends, having fun but also go down with her into the dark world of smuggling.
Last year she won the award for Best Actress at the Pingyao International Film Festival which might just be the start of her acting career. The performance from Yao becomes even better when you put the more experienced actress Carmen Soup (“Buyer Beware”, “The Yuppie Fantasia 3”) in front of her. Why have only one delightful actress when you can have two?
Soup portrays Jo, the girl who wants the best for her friend but who wants to be the most popular one, wonderfully well. The male power for “The Crossing” is provided by Sunny Sun (“The Missing”, “The Secret”) who makes sure that we don’t only see the touch and rough sides of Hao but also his more sensitive and emotional ones.
While “The Crossing” is a very skilful debut, the film can’t grab our attention for the entire time. Despite the fact it only lasts 99 minutes, sometimes the movie feels like it’s dragging on, especially near the end. However, once you get through that, upbeat music follows which will awake you again with a loud bang.
We’re pretty sure that not everyone in China is involved in illegal practices so apart from that, the Chinese culture and traditions are coming through nicely and it’s always pleasant to get to know other cultures through film. While “The Crossing” isn’t flawless due to the slowness and length of some scenes, the performance, cinematography, and music make sure that director Bai Xue shines with her debut.