Strings Attached
Review by Ross Anthony

Here's a wonderfully organic film that flows on the inherently human actions of its detailed and well-rounded characters. From the opening shot of Xiaochun at the barber, I knew I was going to like it. Replete with fun, quirky, emotional interaction, often surprisingly sharp moments, the film needs no archenemy, no clearly defined evil. Each character has his or her moments of good and bad, they're complicated, like you and I. Further, they're likable, moreover lovable. They're a joy to watch on the screen. Plot or no plot, I could have watched Xiaochun and his father squabble and play for the entire two hours. And these are only two rich characters (despite being peasants) in a film of seven or so.

Like its cast, the film, while lovable, has its blemishes as well. Mostly, fluid, the filmmakers indulge in contrivances on an occasion or two. For instance, a blatant camera close up on the father wadding money into the lining of that hat is an obvious manipulation of the audience. Wouldn't it have been much more fun for us to simply wonder why he was so obsessive about wearing his hat? And there are a few such others, but I'd rather not spoil any moments that occur later in the film.

Solid acting (Liu Peiqi as the father is particularly outstanding), solid direction, a warm heartfelt night at the picture show -- it's not even a chore to read the subtitles. Also, though resoundingly imperfect, the climax pays off in spades -- one of the most powerful climaxes I've seen this year.

If you love the violin (and even if you don't) you'll love this film.


  1. The second violin teacher is played by the film's director.
  2. The classical music in this film is all Western-style.

Bare bones synopsis:
Xiaochun is a 13-year-old violin prodigy who lives with his father, Liu Cheng, in a small Chinese city. Shy and sensitive, he doesn't say much - music is his way of expressing his feelings. But Xiaochun's entire life changes when his father, wanting the best for him, takes him to live in immense Beijing.

[Interview with director Chen Kaige]

  • Together. Copyright © 2003.
  • Starring Tang Yun, Liu Peiqi, Chen Hong, Wang Zhiwen, Chen Kaige.
  • Directed by Chen Kaige.
  • Screenplay by Chen Kaige, Xue Xiaolu.
  • Produced by Ton Gang, Chen Hong at UA/Moonstone/ Fourth Production Company of China Film Group Corporation Century Hero Investment Co. Ltd China Movie Channel 21st Century Shengkai Film Company production.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:51:55 PDT