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Shanghai Dreams Review

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It is '80s China, and a teenage girl who has grown up all her life in a small town has no desire to follow her father's wishes and relocate to Shanghai (the city of his youth) at the first opportunity. but he will go to great lengths to ensure that she has no roots to tie her - including sabotaging her relationship with a local factory worker.

★★★★★

Wang Xiaoshuai draws on his own experiences for this slow-burning tale of domestic discord, set in the remote southern Chinese province of Guizhou in the early 1980s. But he still struggles to draw us into teenager Gao Yuanyuan’s frustration at her father’s decision to quit their declining industrial home and return to the city he was compelled to leave during the Cultural Revolution. Her reluctance to leave her best friend and an amorous factory worker smacks more of adolescent caprice than true attachment, and this sense of contrivance undercuts the more considered insights into the consequences of socio-economic betterment.

Claustrophobic interiors and grim landscapes reinforce the aura of Sixth Generation realism, but its episodic nature and sketchy characterisation prove a drag.

Low-key slice of Sixth Generation realism that raises some interesting points about China's recent economic leap forward, but fails to draw us into the core domestic melodrama.

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