Mountains May Depart

Jia Zhangke's ambitious, decade-spanning new film sees the Chinese filmmaker once again turning his camera on his ever-changing homeland

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 11 Dec 2017
  • Mountains May Depart
Film title: Mountains May Depart
Director: Jia Zhangke
Starring: Zhao Tao, Zijian Dong, Sylvia Chang, Jing Dong Liang, Yi Zhang
Release date: 15 Dec
Certificate: 12A

Opening in 1999, with its youthful characters full of optimism on the eve of the millennium, Mountains May Depart finds Jia Zhangke once again taking the measure of China’s rapid social change. The film unfolds in three distinct segments, catching up with Tao (the wonderful Zhao Tao) and her family in 2014 and 2025, with the different aspect ratios used in each section representing the characters’ broadening horizons as well as the growing distance between them. The closing part of this triptych is undeniably a problem, with Jia and his actors stumbling over some tin-eared English dialogue, but for the most part the director is successful in striking a delicate balance between the film’s emotional core and its wider geopolitical concerns.

Few contemporary filmmakers have examined the society around them as incisively and imaginatively as Jia Zhangke, and this portrait of China’s past, present and future is perhaps his most ambitious effort yet. Go West, the Pet Shop Boys sing in the film’s opening and closing scenes, but be careful not to get lost along the way.


Released by Arrow Films