Free and Easy (2017)


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This quirky fable about modern day China charmed me with its surreal drollness and allowed a few quiet moments for a catnap.

In a deserted ghost town in Northern China amidst vast mining scars and fallow fields, a few odd characters wander the empty streets. They are archetypes; a business man selling soap from a briefcase, a monk asking for donations, a Christian singing hymns, an amiable policeman and a cynical one. One by one they interact in a strange and stilted dance of curiosity, coercion and companionship.

Metaphors abound; the businessman sells soap that gives people pleasant dreams but loses them their money and senses, the Christian man is perennially looking for his mother and a lost generation, the monk and the businessman get into bed with each other. It is clear that this is a story about China today and each interaction and set piece is loaded with meaning.

Stylistically, the film is slow and sparse with long pauses between lines. The location creates a strong atmosphere of abandonment and dilapidation where nature and all vibrancy is dead. It seems a damning indictment with little hope other than the camaraderie of the players but their humanity and humour, for all its absurdity, leaves a warm feeling.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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