THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI (Roger Spottiswoode). 115 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (June 6). For venues and times, see Movies, page 96. Rating: NN
Historical epics get to me. Lay on the sweeping grandeur, the mammoth crowd scenes and I don’t even mind when unlikely romance blossoms amidst deep squalor or the frozen tundra.
But they can’t be totally predictable. In The Children Of Huang Shi, based on a true story, Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays George Hogg, a cynical British reporter heading to Nanking to cover the 1937 Japanese invasion of China. Circumstances force him into a struggling orphanage in Huang Shi.
Will Hogg bond with the orphans? Will he agree to take the boys over 600 kilometres to safety across the mountains when the Chinese National Army threatens to conscript them? Guess.
Rhys Meyers is suitably intense as Hogg, though the camera he carries wasn’t yet invented then. Worse, the script gives us no idea why nurse and maybe love interestLee (Rhada Mitchell) is in China in the first place. Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh, as supporters of the trek, are wasted.
Cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding does makes the movie look like a picture postcard, and at the end director Roger Spottiswoode gets some poignant testimony from the real-life, now elderly orphans. Shades of Schindler’s List.
But as Spottiswoode tells their story, you don’t worry about any of them for a second.