It’s only at the end of this slow, quiet Chinese drama that you realise the significance of the title. I won’t explain it here, it’s something worth finding out for yourself. It takes a while for this film to reveal itself. You follow an older widow, Deng, as she leads a solitary life in urban Beijing. She turns up at her sons’ houses unannounced to cook them food, much to their annoyance and the chagrin of one daughter-in-law. She visits her aged mother in a nursing home. The sense is that she is pragmatic, maybe something of a martyr. She talks to her dead husband. Sometimes we see him there too, listening in silence. There is a thread here about generations and the obligations of child to parent, so intrinsic once but now changing.
Odd things begin to happen – phone calls with only silence, a boy who follows her, a brick through her window. Her sons think it is someone with a grudge against them, we suspect it could be imagined, the beginning of dementia. She thinks it’s a ghost.
There is a quiet power to this film and it builds in intensity until the end. Sometimes it seemed too slow, the camera panning ever so slowly across walls and doorways, but it allowed you to absorb the detail and textures of that world. Ultimately it is a tragedy of what has been lost in China since the Cultural Revolution.