Peng Sanyuan’s “Lost and Love” could ably serve as a travelogue of China: glowingly verdant trees, winding roads, fishing shacks, ribbonlike bridges, cafes and grubby city intersections, all shot by Mark Lee Ping Bin, the cinematographer who has helped the great director Hou Hsiao-hsien sculpt time in images.
But this is unhappy sightseeing: Ms. Peng’s film centers on a man on a decade-plus search for his lost son, a victim of the scourge of child trafficking in China. What results is ample fodder for a stop-and-go tear-jerker featuring the Hong Kong star Andy Lau, suitably rumpled like a piece of distressed clothing, as the poor, bereft father, Lei.
On a mountain leg of his province-by-province dragnet, Lei is joined by a young mechanic, Zeng (Boran Jing), after repairs on his bike, which flies a flag of his missing child. When the younger, well-coiffed man reveals he was kidnapped as a child, the film begins a potentially poignant drama of two people in need, both clinging to grief.
Their bond feels awkwardly developed, as typified by a shouting match over the bike and a playful car-washing scene. Ms. Peng, a novelist and screenwriter, keeps lurching into wide shot to show off the landscape (especially the bridges that tap into Zeng’s vague memories of childhood) and cutting away to wispy stories about a baby trafficker and a distraught mother.
“Lost and Love” (“Lost Orphan” in the original Chinese title) confronts serious problems but is too busy reaching for epic sweep and soaring moments to nail the fine detail of main characters’ fraught give-and-take.
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