​Crime drama 'Across the Furious Sea' is a tale of family tragedy

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 21, 2023
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The long-awaited film "Across the Furious Sea" by Cao Baoping presents two Asian families' tragedies and sends a warning to those who undertake harmful parenting practices.

A still image from "Across the Furious Sea" shows the two lead characters mid-argument. [Photo courtesy of Benchmark Pictures] 

"The lack of love in education is now a widespread problem in East Asia," director Cao said at the premiere of the film on Nov. 17 in Beijing. "By revealing the cruel truth of the scars in its families, the film aims to lift and encourage our audience to confront the root issues in current family education, rather than avoiding or embellishing them."

"Across the Furious Sea," directed and co-written by Cao, features two veteran actors, Huang Bo and Zhou Xun. Adapted from Lao Huang's novel of the same name published in Fiction Monthly, the film serves as the final installment of Cao's critically acclaimed "Heartburn" trilogy, succeeding "The Dead End" and "The Perfect Blue."

It tells the story of fisherman Lao Jin (Huang Bo), who, while dedicated to supporting his daughter Jin Lina's (Zhou Yiran) studies in Japan via his work, meets tragedy when she is fatally stabbed 17 times. Her boyfriend, Li Miaomiao (Zhang Youhao), becomes the prime suspect. Fueled by anger, Lao Jin seeks vengeance, while Li Miaomiao, protected by his mother Jing Lan (Zhou Xun), evades capture. In this complex human nature situation, it remains uncertain who will ultimately attain love and forgiveness.

The film not only unfolds as an exceedingly cruel crime investigation story but also prompts various societal reflections on topics such as harm within families and the gray areas of human nature. Just as the director intended, the film injects soul and contemplation into the narrative of a crime story.

The cast and crew pose for a photo at the premiere of "Across the Furious Sea," held in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Bravo Entertainment]

Lao Jin's seemingly vengeful pursuit is, in essence, filled with love and the need for redemption. In the film, Lao Jin – a father who unwittingly neglects his daughter – and Jing Lan – a mother who excessively dotes on her child – embody two sides of typical Asian parental figures. "Lao Jin is like a black bear, and Jing Lan is a mother wolf, symbolizing two extreme ways of handling family relationships," described Cao.

Actor Huang Bo added that he believes "Lao Jin's love for his daughter is a self-perceived love, much like many traditional families today where parents, overwhelmed by the pressures of survival, think that 'feeding' the child to grow up is fulfilling their entire responsibility." Actress Zhou Xun, who portrays Jing Lan, is the opposite of Lao Jin – stern externally but tender in her love for her child, blindly shielding Li Miaomiao's wrongdoings. It is precisely this excessive indulgence in her son that unravels a series of tragedies in the film.

The cast members confessed at the premiere that they had immersed themselves so deeply in their characters that they were unable to shake them after finishing filming.

"Lao Jin is the most difficult father figure I've ever played in my career, and the director always felt that the performance was 'not enough' and consistently squeezed out every bit of essence from the actors," Huang said. Meanwhile, his co-star Zhou Xun referred to the director as "greedy" for perfection. She mentioned that working with Cao was like running a marathon – grueling but full of adrenaline. 

In addition, young actor Zhang Youhao said that he also experienced great torment bringing his role to the screen, as navigating the "psychotic" elements of Li Miaomiao became ever more challenging. Actress Zhou Yiran said that she fully immersed herself in the role, imprinting Jin Lina's painful experiences and self-deprecating personality on her heart as if she had carved them into herself. Even a year after filming, she had not completely recovered.

A poster for "Across the Furious Sea." [Image courtesy of Benchmark Pictures] 

"Across the Furious Sea" received rave reviews from the audience and critics after the premiere and is set to debut nationwide theatrically on Nov. 25.

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