The long road home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2007, 12:00am

The best comedies are often tragedies at heart. They affirm the sad truth that there is no such thing as a perfect life - even in the movies.

The migrant worker (brilliantly played by Zhao Benshan) in mainland director Zhang Yang's comedy Getting Home leads a miserable life. Desperately poor and far from home, he tries to smuggle the corpse of his friend home for burial.

His journey across the country introduces us to all sorts of fun and sad characters, whose life stories reflect the changing times in China.

There is an old man who is so lonely that he pays strangers to mourn at his staged funeral, an optimistic traveller who cycles to Tibet to celebrate his birthday, a lovelorn truck driver who drives thousand of miles to look for his girlfriend and a woman who pays for her son to go to college by collecting rubbish.

What links these characters is a yearning for home - a metaphor for the goodness of humanity and traditional values such as integrity and persistence.

The ending turns the comedy into a tragedy, as we see that such a 'home' no longer exists due to economic changes. As we trade our home for material comforts, we also trade laughter for tears.