In late 2017, shortly after completing An Elephant Sitting Still, the 29-year-old director Hu Bo committed suicide. Even without this desperate act, his film debut would have attracted considerable attention.
In a declining mining town in the north of China, four characters have an even blacker day than normal. The hopelessness caresses their faces, and things cannot get much darker. And yet… somewhere the tiniest crack must let in almost imperceptible light.
There is something very consoling about the recognition of the desolation. Hu Bo has translated his piercing existential pain (his own, that of modern China, that of us all) into beautiful cinema. A treasure.