Release Date: September 1st, 2006 (Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Ken Takakura, Shinobu Terajima, Kiichi Nakai, Li Jiamin, Qiu Lin, Yang Zhenbo. Directed by Zhang Yimou.
In Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Takada (Takakura) goes on a journey from Japan to China in order to complete a Chinese folk drama film for his terminally ill son, Kenichi (Nakai), who refuses to see him.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Riding Along for Thousands of Miles boasts a terrific performance by Ken Takakura as Takada, an elderly fisherman from a small village in Japan whose daughter-in-law, Rie (Terajima) asks him to visit his terminally ill son, Kenichi, whom he hasn't seen in many years. Upon his arrival at the Tokyo hospital, Takada learns that Kenichi doesnít want to see him and that he hasnít finished filming a Chinese folk song performance by Li Jiamin, a famous performer. Jiamin declines to be filmed, so, for the rest of the plot, Takada goes on a simple mission to locate him and complete the film for his beloved son. He travels to China and, after struggling with the language barrier between Japanese and Chinese, discovers that Jiamin is located in a prison. Again, Jiamin refuses to be filmed at the moment but promises to let him film if he comes back at a later time and admits that he feels heartbroken that he canít see own 8-year-old son. At this point, the plot gets a bit more complex as Takada sets out on a separate mission to locate Jiaminís 8- year-old son (Zhenbo) and reunite him with his father. Soon, both of them walk side by side and get lost together. Predictably, they form a unique friendship. Screenwriter Zou Jingzhi allows for some humorous moments during this segment while director Zhang Yimou includes picturesque, breathtaking cinematography. Itís also worth mentioning the beautiful, well-chosen music score. Admittedly and forgivably, the third act does feel a bit contrived and melodramatic. Ultimately, the strong performance by Ken Takakura keeps you fully absorbed by this simple story.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The parallel father-son stories are both very moving and highlight the importance and value of kinship. Takada and Jiamin yearn to rekindle their bond with their sons and realize that, without doing so, they would feel empty inside. The final, emotionally powerful scenes will move you to tears of both sadness and joy.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1
IN A NUTSHELL: Beautiful, absorbing and poignant. Ken Takakura delivers a very moving performance.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "R" Menu