End of Summer immerses you in the WC 1998 memories of Director Quan Zhou. Like the protagonist in his film, he was 11 years old, living in a compound in Shaoxing, when the World Cup was first broadcast live in China. Boys of his generation became fans of football and of players like Del Piero.
In this story, three generations of males are contrasted. The boy Xiaoyang wants to play for his school team, while his father Mr. Gu, who is also a school administrator, wants him to only focus on academics. The boy instead bonds with Mr Grandpa, an old retiree in the compound who has lost his own grandson. A fan of Brazil, the old man agrees to coach the boy behind the father’s back.
Flowing at a languid pace as it meanders along each generation’s problems, the film is beautifully shot and the acting is superb. The small window of time only alludes to a great upheaval outside the microcosm of the 3 characters: companies are displaced and the compound itself is under governmental threat. Even all the relationships in the film are at risk of disappearing.
What struck me the most about this film is how sad and tiny are the characters’ lives. Ten years at the school, the father is not happy with his work, nor probably his life, so he just wants to do a good job. The mother hopes to win a competition so that they can have enough money to move to better housing. The old man is waiting for the final insult to life’s injuries.
Even the boy keeps his dreams under his bed, in a tin box that his father confiscates. Chances of advancement seem just that—mere tiny chances in a country where each person has his minuscule existence in the world and little more. It’s better not to have any dreams.
20 years of huge change in China
But that environment was 20 years ago, and life in China is much different now. Even the production company, Each Other Films, is a collection of young people with overseas educations, going back to China to cash in on the growing movie craze. So we should appreciate End of Summer as a true period piece, giving us a glance and an understanding of China at the turn of the 21st Century. That a 30 year old Director could be that nostalgic hints at how fast China is changing.
Although Director Quan Zhou means for football to be the common thread of the movie, there is very little of it in the film. None of the actors know how to play, so the football scenes are the least authentic in the film. But as with many soccer movies, the game is just a metaphor, and in this case, football is a barrier or a bridge between generations.
In Mandarin with English subtitles
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7