Liu Xing (played by Ye Liu) is a brilliant young Chinese student of astronomy and cosmology. He is educated in China and due to his academic excellence, he is awarded a scholarship to a University in Salt Lake City, Utah. He studies under the guidance of world famous Professor Jacob Reiser (by Aidan Quinn) to develop Reiser’s ground-breaking model of the Big Bang Theory and the existence of “dark matter” in the universe. On his arrival in Utah, Liu Xing joins the other Chinese graduate students in the program. Joanna Silver (by Meryl Streep), a natural carer with strong maternal instinct, is responsible for the integration and wellbeing of all the Chinese students while they are studying in Utah. She provides Chinese cultural activities and social interractions for them and she is particularly drawn to Liu Xing. He is an innocent but ambitious young man, keen to excel in his work and honour the reputation of his great mentor, Professor Reiser. He has left his proud parents and family behind in China but he writes often, to give them news of his success in America and to assure them he works hard to fulfill their hopes for him. Professor Reiser immediately sees the impressive potential in Liu Xing as he starts to develop his own ideas about the theory. But soon, Liu Xing’s brilliance starts to outshine the program and Professor Reiser fears his own bright light will start to fall into the shadows of his young protege. Politics and jealousy start to impede on the beauty of the scientific theory, which threatens to have life-changing consequences for everyone.
This movie is an unpolished gem. It is unassuming in every respect but delivers an unforgettable story based on actual events. Young Ye Liu portrays the innocent, passionate and highly intelligent Liu Zing with excellence. His wide-eyed acceptance of all things American is very well done and when things start to unravel for him his despair is palpable. He is marvellous. Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn are strong here too – they kind of creep up on you, as the movie is a slow burn to a high impact conclusion. The other actors who play the fellow Chinese students make the movie watchable and give it a social realism because they are worldly-wise enough to know how to “please the boss”, do only what’s really necessary to get what they want and generally make the most of the American lifestyle while they can have it. Scene and cinematography are just as bland as the university surroundings – but this is appropriate, to give the viewer a sense of the grey university walls, empty life (apart from the studying) and the vain attempts of the local cultural group to provide some familiar surroundings for these international visitors. As I said, it’s a slow burn – and ultimately it’s a good movie.
Made in 2007. Directed by Shi-Zheng Chen