Starring Yun Tang, Peiqi Liu, Hong Chen, Zhiwen Wang and Kaige Chen

Directed by Kaige Chen

Review by Mark Walters


 Xiaochun (Yun Tang) is a 13-year-old violin prodigy who lives with his father, Liu (Pequi Liu) Cheng, in a small Chinese city.  Shy and sensitive, Xiaochun doesn't say much music is his way of expressing his feelings.  But his entire life changes when his father, wanting only the best for him, takes him to live in immense, metropolitan Beijing.  Liu Cheng is willing to sacrifice everything so Xiaochun can audition for a prestigious music school and take lessons that befit his talent.  In this new world, Xiaochun encounters new and demanding teachers, discovers true friendship, learns how painful life's choices can be, and comes to understand the strength of his father's love.  Featuring an incredible classical soundtrack, Chen Kaige's TOGETHER is a stirring drama about the power of music and the importance of family.

 Director Chen Kaige (Sometimes said Kaige Chen) has previously helmed such critical hits like FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE and THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN.  His love of music is used in full force here, adding a level of uncompromised sophistication to a richly textured script.  The film is filled with interesting characters and scenarios.  Xiaochun's father Liu Cheng is a sincere man, doing whatever it takes to help his son succeed, even if it means working several demeaning jobs at all hours of the day.  Cheng carries his entire fortune inside his hat, which is a fitting characteristic for this rather simple man.  Pequi Liu gives an amusing and endearing portrayal in Cheng, making us respect him no matter what he may be doing.  Xiaochun on the other hand is consumed only with his talent.  The violin has become his entire life, and though he may bring joy to others when playing, there is an emptiness weighing heavily upon him.  Yun Tang, who has apparently never acted before, is simply amazing as Xiaochun, turning in a beautifully layered performance that will easily impress you.  Hong Chen plays Lili, a gorgeous material girl who switches boyfriends almost as many times as she changes clothes.  Xiaochun becomes fascinated, and perhaps somewhat infatuated, with her alluring attitude.  Though she's obviously low on the moral scale, we find ourselves attracted to her as well, perhaps simply for her erratic behavior.  Zhiwen Wang play Professor Jiang, a rather eccentric man who helps Xiaochun find comfort while playing.  Jiang becomes almost like a more serious father to Xiaochun, though his teaching methods are sometimes questionable.  The film's director Chen Kaige doubles his duties by playing the stern Professor Yu, who only teaches the finest musicians, and may just be the one person who can truly get Xiaochun the attention that is needed.

 What makes the film so good is that everyone we're introduced to is interesting and unique.  All of the characters have a driving force that motivates them.  Xiaochun has his violin.  Cheng has his son.  Lili has her clothes.  Professor Jiang has music.  And Professor Yu has his students.  What's really intriguing is watching how music (particularly Xiaochun's music) affects all of their lives, and in many ways shows their true colors.  The music plays a big part in the film, sometimes dominating scenes for several minutes on end, though it never becomes overdone.  Kaige uses the music to help tell the story.  The relationship between father and son takes precedence in the script, but all of the events surrounding these two make for an amazing time.  The violin solos are performed by Chuanyun Li, who also makes a brief cameo in the film as Professor Yu's prodigy.  You will hear violin music unlike anything ever played before.  Chen's directing is top notch.  The visuals are done with the utmost grace, and the pacing is carried out well.  Aside from a few slow moments, the film remains consistently engaging.  If you're looking for a really good film this Father's Day, look no further than TOGETHER.  I'm hoping it receives wide recognition, and feel confident we may be hearing more about it come Oscar time.  What more can I say, GO SEE IT!

Images copyright UNITED ARTISTS 2003. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give TOGETHER a 9.



Director Chen Kaige appeared in Dallas to promote TOGETHER, and Mark Walters had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the film.

To read what Chen Kaige had to say, CLICK HERE

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All content 2004