• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Review: This Woman

ByMátin Cheung

Mar 2, 2024
illustration of a girl with a butterfly atop her head, movie poster

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This Woman by ALan Zhang is a delightful debut that embraces feminism at its heart. 

This film begins with Beibei, a mother, daughter, and wife, describing herself as ‘wife and mother material’. Yet, her subsequent journey suggests that she is precisely the antithesis, particularly in contemporary Chinese society. After losing her job as a real estate agent in Beijing, Beibei goes on a journey of redefining herself during the pandemic. She begins to seek answers in her hometown through a new job, a new relationship, and a new way of being. Her body travels between different occupations, locations, and relationships. Images of Beibei’s body flow freely on screen in different spaces like water. Every time her body is presented in a different space, Beibei rejects different, sometimes implicit, limits and definitions this society wants to impose on her.

Rather unconventionally, in This Woman, Beibei’s journey is narrated in fragments that deny the idea of consistency and coherency. We see pieces of Beibei’s life experiences, yet ALan does not intend to construct a concrete story or storyline. There is no grand opening or ending nor does ALan want to provide answers to life. This intentional distance from creating a so-called storyline in Beibei’s life adds a unique touch of femininity to its art of narrative.

From shot to shot, the tone of This Woman makes it feel like a documentary. It is not until the end that we realise that fiction and reality co-exist in this film. It has a playful closing credit that mimics fiction films. Here, everyone’s character is credited with their relationship with Beibei such as “Beibei’s daughter”, followed by their real names. Although we may never know which parts were designed and written by ALan and Beibei, This Woman challenges the solid line between real and fake, fiction and nonfiction, and urges us to think about the power of storytelling in redefining one’s identity and the meaning of one’s roles.

This Woman boldly confronts entrenched traditions and limits within filmmaking long guarded by patriarchal norms. At its core, ALan reimagines cinematic language through the medium of female bodies and life experience. It’s difficult not to eagerly anticipate what they will bring us in the future.

Reviewed at the 2024 Mint Chinese Film Festival.

Image provided via Mint Chinese Film Festival Press Release.