Last Train Home 10/11/04 2:29
A married couple, the Zhangs, work in Guangzhou as sewers in a clothing factory. In order to boost their children out of rural poverty, they went to work there a long time ago, sending money to their kids in the countryside, who are being taken care of by their grandparents 1200 miles away. The only times they get to spend with their children are during the New Years break. The father is quiet and reflective, the mother a constant worrier who obsesses about creating the opportunity for the kids to have a better life. While cameras observe them at work, another film team follows the kids in the country, particularly the teenage daughter Qin. In an observational narrative covering two different annual visits, we learn of Qin's smoldering resentment at her parent's absence, and her hatred of school. A painful drama of familial struggle ensues.
In the background, unexpressed because of censorship, but evident to the viewer, is the injustice of the economic system that causes unimaginable stress for millions of families like the Zhangs. As always in such intimate documentaries, we wonder how much the cameras influence behavior, but the glimpse we get of life for the workers is stunning. The visual contrast between the beautiful countryside, which unfortunately you can't really prosper in, and the grimy polluted cities that have become manufacturers for the world, is another of the film's highlights. Last Train Home conveys something of the experience of living in China to a greater degree than I've seen before.