The Children of Huang Shi tells the true story of George Hogg who is a young English reporter in China during the Japanese occupation of 1937. Eventually, he and another journalist manage to infiltrate into an area where they are not welcome disguised as Red Cross workers. Luckily, he is rescued by Chow Yun-Fat’s character who plays a Chinese Communist guerrilla. Eventually these three will shepherd the orphans across the Gobi Desert to safety. Beautifully filmed, the movie portrays mid-twentieth century China against breathtaking vistas and crowded cities amidst ancient buildings and sweeping deserts.
Somewhere between 20 to 30 million Chinese died at the hands of the Japanese invaders between 1937 and 1945, creating a degree of animosity between the two countries that persists to this day. This might be why as a U.S. movie goer, this movie has probably flown above your radar as it is only getting promotion in China. Do see this film, if you are at all interested in Asian history, and children, and the inspiration of a life lived well. During the first 25 minutes or so of the story, it appears that the film will be an action thriller, but the heart of the story reveals the transformative power of self-sacrifice & caring in a hostile political and physical environment. However, The Children of Huang Shi doesn’t stray far from the formula of epic period pieces.
This had potential to be a very good movie. The material was interesting. It just fell short of my expectations. It was downright boring at times. The film may not be engaging or informative enough to be worth recommending, but some fine supporting performances make the movie easy enough to sit through. There are times, when the story feels as if its trying to manipulate you, with one dramatic development here or the death of a major character there. I will say though that it is refrshing to see a movie where the hero can go through the whole movie without killing anyone.
For all that, it is an affecting portrait and a strong story with a compelling backdrop, and Chinese cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao makes the gorgeous locations look magnificent. Yet for a film set in a murderous war, we see far more of the rugged beauty of China than of the savagery of the Japanese invasion. It’s also quite a shame that Chow Yun-Fat’s screen time is rather limited as he disappears for most of the picture following his introduction. All in all, I can give this film a passing grade and a slight recommendation.