The acclaimed director Zhang Yimou's (Not One Less) impressive and deeply moving film is based on a novel by Bao Shi titled Remembrance. Set in a small village in Northern China during the 1950s, it tells the story of a daring and untraditional love affair.
The drama begins in black and white as Luo Yusheng (Sun Honglei), a businessman from the city, drives to Sanhetun, the town where he was born. The occasion is a sad one, to bury his father, a long time teacher who died suddenly. Yusheng's elderly mother Zhao Di (Zhao Yuelin) wants the local men to carry the coffin from the hospital back to the village on their backs so her husband's spirit will always know the way home. Meanwhile, she is going to weave the funeral cloth. Although Yusheng doesn't see the point of this age-old custom, he accedes to the wishes of his mother. Then he recalls the unusual courtship of his parents some 40 years earlier.
Director Zhang Yimou shifts the mood and heightens the dramatic clout of the next section of the story by switching to color. We meet Zhao Di (Zhang Ziyi) as an 18-year-old living in poverty with her blind grandmother. When Luo Changyu (Zheng Hao), a 20-year-old schoolteacher, arrives in the village, she is swept off her feet by his presence. Of course, to express her love for him is a difficult task given the tradition of arranged marriages.
So the shrewd and resourceful Zhao Di cooks him her best dishes and hopes that Changyu will choose hers from the communal lunch table of food. She desperately tries to set up "accidental" meetings while drawing water at the well. Of course, Changyu takes note of the fact that Zhao Di has been chosen to weave the red cloth that bedecks the rafters of the new schoolhouse.
The Road Home is a spellbinding tale of romantic love that beautifully conveys the mood swings and elations of this delirious state of being. A lost hairpin and a broken china bowl play major roles in the unfolding drama of Changyu and Zhao Di's courtship. Their life together in love undergoes a two-year absence caused by the young teacher's missteps in the eyes of his political superiors.
Similar in spirit to Not One Less, this well-realized film touches the heart and proves that director Zhang Yimou has hit high stride in his career.