Little Red Flowers (4 stars)

(12A) 87min


Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by the bestselling enfant terrible of Chinese literature Wang Shuo, Little Red Flowers is the story of a precocious four-year-old boy, Qiang (Dong Bowen), who rebels against the conformity in his kindergarten. Set in the early 1950s, Qiang’s railing against convention, and authority in the form of strict teacher Li (Zhao Rui), is obviously an allegory for life under Communist rule in post-Cultural Revolution China. But as directed by Zhang Yuan (who previously collaborated with Shuo on 2003’s I Love You and who remains best known for 1993’s Beijing Bastards), the allegorical dimension of the story isn’t laboured. Instead, the film has a more liberal outlook that suggests both individual behaviour and mass conformity have their uses in society.

In any event, the socio-political comment never overshadows the drama, at the centre of which is a remarkable performance by Bowen. It’s no easy thing to play a brat and an anti-hero, but this charming young tyke pulls it off. The boy’s turn, along with some fantastical elements and a certain dream-like atmosphere, will engage younger viewers. Nevertheless, this is that all too rare thing: a kid’s film for grown-ups.

GFT, Glasgow from Mon 9-Thu 12 Apr only.

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