Let’s set some things straight. Yes I have some Chinese ancestry (quite a lot of it actually) which does mean, yes I did have Chinese immigrant parents. However, that does not automatically lead to me having studied any kind of instrument, in particular (rather aptly) the violin. If anything, my musical talent totals to a few shrill notes on the recorder and drunken bouts in karoake bars – both of which the less said the better.
That does not mean, of course, I don’t appreciate music. Sure, I may have issues with some of the canto- or nippo-pop favoured by my colleagues in general; it does not mean I automatically dislike it – it’s just I hold certain prejudices against it, justifiable or not. This, of course, does not hold to classical music. I appreciate it. I may not know a lot about it, but I can listen to it and be moved by it.
Which is fortunate because Together has a lot of it so those of you who have a distaste of violins… well, you have been warned. I’d suggest you watch the movie anyway, in the hope you change your mind but some some scars are pretty deep.
The thing with Together is that you get such a feel for the passion the characters have for music that it’s pretty darn impossible not to be moved by it. If I knew more about Classical music, I’m sure I could spout musical metaphors like subtle overtures and emotional crescendoes but in all honestly I wouldn’t be able to maintain it for the duration of this review, no matter how cool it may be to be able to fake it, I’ll try to go without.
Now this kind of story about growing up and expression through art is not a unique one and the recent one that sprung to mind was Billy Elliott. A lot distinguishes Together from BE however, so cries of remake can be silenced. The most significant is perhaps the much more tender relationship between father and son (Liu Peiqi and Tang Chun respectively). They are central to the themes of sacrifice and duty so common in Chinese films, and the growing up and beyond these restrictions that run throughout the film.
Tang Yun’s is great as the young, shy prodigy and exhibits an uncertainess that evolves into a strength of conviction that seems to carry him through the movie. And his savviness against Liu Peiqi’s rural naivete and almost overbearing concern for his son provides an interesting contrast. Of the supporting cast, Wang Zhiwen, as the original scruffy mentor is perhaps the most memorable though somewhat cliched though no more than the source of Xiaochun’s teenage idolisation, Chen Hong who plays the good time girl, Lili that befriends him.
Which is, I suppose the biggest problem with this film – if at all. There is nothing ground breaking here that makes it stand out. It is however a thoroughly enjoyable film. I suppose, in hindsight, it is somewhat emotionally manipulative but that’s the point of a good story. If you can’t take a personal interest in the characters you’re watching, then it’s hard to maintain an interest at all. Fortunately, Together is a movie that engrosses you and immerses you in the passions that drive the greatest of our artists and lets you get a glimpse of the divinty they strive for. For that alone, it’s hard not to recommend the film.