Whereas most Chinese art house movies do actual medical damage to viewers with their chic nihilism and long, boring shots of people riding around in trucks, Peacock is a balm for your soul. The Cultural Revolution is China ‘s national trauma, a harrowing decade of turmoil and destruction where everyone just tried to hold on and survive, and when it ended in 1976 millions emerged blinking into the sunlight, astounded that they were still standing. Peacock follows an average family in the average town of Henyang through the eight years after the end of the Cultural Revolution as they pick up their lives as if nothing happened. It’s a great leap forward for the three adult children of the Gao clan. Anchored by a series of family meals, the kids are trying to make it in the world – Weihong, the daughter has to learn that her dream man isn’t going to solve all her problems; eldest brother Weiguo is a simple-minded fat guy who’s an unmarriageable weight around his parents’ necks; and the middle son, Weiqiang, is the typical middle child, narrating the movie and taking every injustice in life as a personal affront. A two-hour plus movie about a family in post-Revolutionary China sounds deadly, but in the hands of Gu Changwei it becomes essential viewing for the dejected, downtrodden and just plain weary. This is a film that traffics in the belief that it doesn’t matter how bad today gets because as long as we’re alive there’s always the hope for a better tomorrow.
Directed by Changwei Gu | Starring : Jingchu Zhang, Yulai Lu, Li Feng, Meiying Huang, Yiwei Zhao | Presented at Berlin Film Festival. Helsinki Film Festival, Brothers Manaki Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival