Weaving two parallel stories one in the present day and the other in 19th century China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells of the story of how two sets of women, matched as laotong, or “old sames’ cope with their close friendships in the face of adversity, their love lives and the changes in China in their respective timelines.
I went into this film not knowing it was based on a bestselling novel, by Lisa See, and of that I’m glad, as it might have prejudiced my enjoyment of it. I knew nothing about laotongs, which was a quite formal contract signed by the women concerned, despite this formality, it gave them a deep friendship and support, which was often missing in the arranged marriages that were quite common in China. A good old-fashioned melodrama, the stories are beautifully played out. Both Bingbing Li and Gianna Jun give good performances in their dual roles, conveying the deep intimacy between them well. The film looks lovely, the contrast between modern day Shanghai and 19th century Hunan is nicely done. My only small gripe is the appearance of Hugh Jackman, an ex boyfriend of one of the women in the present day. I get the impression that he was only cast to get to sell the film in America and he brings very little to the role, this is however a minor distraction, in what is otherwise an emotional and satisfying film.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is showng now in selected cinemas
words Daniel Davidson