Monday, 24 June 2013

Under the Hawthorn Tree "Shan zha shu zhi lian" (2010) - ★★★★½

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writers: Ai Mi (Novel), Lichuan Yin, Xiaobai Gu, Mei Ah (Screenplay)
Stars: Dongyu Zhou, Shawn Dou, Meijuan Xi

This is one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen. For the first time in my life, a film has actually made me projectile cry! I held my emotions so well throughout the whole movie, then bam! Right at the end of Under the Hawthorn Tree, I cried as hard as I ever have. The chemistry the two leads have in this movie is incredible. Their story is so romantic, and Yimou Zhang put it together in such a beautiful way. It's a privilege to see masterpieces such as this.

Set in communist China, a young girl named Jing (Dongyu Zhou) is sent to the countryside to be educated by peasants and farmers. Here she meets Sun (Shawn Dou), a young geologist in which she falls in love with. Jing and her mother struggle to survive as they are the only people working in their family. Her whole future depends on becoming a teacher and staying out of trouble. It makes her romance with Sun extremely difficult, but it's the romance of a life-time.

Under the Hawthorn Tree absolutely broke my heart. The chemistry that Jing and Sun have is so natural. I found myself hanging on their every action and decision. What can I say? It was an extremely romantic relationship. The problem is that they fell in love during a time where you had to slave away in order to keep your head above water.

Dongyu Zhou gave the performance of a lifetime as Jing, a stubborn and naive girl caught between love and family obligation. The talent she displayed at the very end of the film was remarkable. It's an Oscar worthy performance in my books, and certainly one that has been overlooked worldwide. Shawn Dou played the sweetest, most caring guy I've ever seen in a movie. It's a difficult task to get the audience to fall in love with a character, but somehow they pulled it off. Together, their romance is as heart-warming and tragic as Romeo and Juliet. 

This is why Chinese cinema is my favorite of all! Yimou Zhang knows how to construct a story and develop characters in such a way that it's always interesting. He also uses some of the most gorgeous scores I've ever heard in his movies. The music in this film is unbelievably beautiful. It dictates your mood and really elevates the emotions on screen. Not to mention, the cinematography is the very definition of perfection. There are a number of notable scenes, but the one that sticks in my mind came at the very end in the hospital, where the photo of Jing and Sun was pasted onto the roof. That was the moment when I bawled my eyes out crying.

There's a number of things that are special about Under the Hawthorn Tree. I'm horrified at how overlooked it is worldwide. Only 1060 people have rated it on IMDB, and only 25 critics have shared their reviews. I hope people read this and go see it immediately! It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had watching a movie. It's one thing to make a person shed a tear, but to make a person completely break down takes skill. Yimou Zhang is officially on my list of greatest directors, and Under the Hawthorn Tree is definitely on my list of greatest romances!


  1. This movie indeed has an interesting history background to tender love story, good actors' performance, and of course great cinematography as well as directing, BUT I will never watch it again. It's way too painful! I don't understand how viewers can enjoy self-imposed suffering. It seems like a death of main character adds value to the romance in Asian film industry, especially in Korean one.

  2. A truly lyrical and romantic film that evoked those strong feelings of love that one has when young. Beautifully filmed with exquisitely sensitive performances by the actors. Zhou Dongyu is perfectly cast and delivers an amazing performance in the lead role.
    I've watched this twice and cried both times, and I'm a grown man.
    A lovely film. Highly recommended.