This is one of the few films that I did not read the blurb in the program before seeing, and so I was very surprised to see that it was made in 2010. It felt much older – there was a particular sound, perhaps of age, on the audio, and the images had the washed out look which I typically associate with seventies cinema.
Under the Hawthorn Tree tells the story of a boy and girl who fall in love. But of course it is not a love story that goes smoothly – this is China in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. Falling in love was not allowed. Apparently. I was a little confused on this – she was a teaching student, he a geologist. Her family had political history – her father was in prison. Jing’s mother didn’t want her to fall in love so young. But it wasn’t totally clear to me why they could not be together, and I really wanted to know why. This really ruined the story for me.
I’ve read bits and pieces on the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, and things were pretty intense, with the threat of death or imprisonment very real, and consequently I spent most of the movie annoyed with both Jing and Sun, her love interest. She kept making decisions that could have really serious consequences for her future and her family’s future, and this drove me nuts. It is a story of love conquering all, but I just did not believe it.