Kun (Zhou You) is a film student in Beijing who doesn’t take life all that seriously and is full of unearned confidence—if he lived in a Western city we’d probably call him a slacker or hipster. Kun’s father, a policeman, is not impressed by his directionless son, but Kun seems to have already mastered one very important life skill: he has a good sense for what he can get away with. This is illustrated in the opening scene, in which Kun fails a driving test in spectacular fashion, with no apparent consequences for property destruction or anything else. He’s definitely too cool for school, failing to pay attention in his filmmaking classes (he’s officially studying sound recording), when he bothers to attend at all. On the other hand, the classes don’t appear to be all that useful, so it’s hard to not sympathize with this bored young man, particularly if his antics make you recall episodes of your own misspent youth.
Kun feels himself too good for what life is currently offering, but whether he will be able to organize himself sufficiently to do anything else remains an open question. He’s working on a film by a pretentious director named Ming (Wang Xiaomu), and trying to raise money in ways you just know won’t succeed, like hawking CDs recorded by a moonlighting construction worker. The lack of a license doesn’t keep him from buying (and driving, none too expertly) a car, suggesting that China’s bureaucracy isn’t all that efficient at tracking down people who simply refuse to acknowledge that it exists. And you have to give Kun some credit for personality and leadership skills—his loyal pal and sidekick Tong (Tong Lin Kai), a boom operator, seems willing to follow him to the ends of the earth, and for some reason his very pretty and gainfully employed girlfriend Zhi (Zheng Yingchen) finds reasons to continue to hang with him.
Striding Into the Wind runs 134 min., and it’s not exactly a miracle of concision. Instead, the progress of the story frequently mirrors the aimlessness of the central character, and the meandering can try your patience (less so if you’re a fan of Jim Jarmusch). On the plus side, the relaxed pace is appropriate to the subject, and allows some bizarre and apparently serendipitous moments (although I suspect they were planned and scripted by co-screenwriters Gao Linyang and director Wei Shujun) to emerge. It’s certainly a good-natured film, and it’s hard to go far wrong with a road trip film, particularly one as well-acted and well-shot (cinematography by Wang Jiehong) as this one.
Striding Into the Wind is Wei’s feature debut, following his debut short “On the Border,” which scooped up awards at Cannes and the HollyShorts Film Festival. The central character is based on Wei himself, and the director obviously got his act together, which gives you hope for Kun as well. | Sarah Boslaugh
Striding Into the Wind is available on DVD and VOD beginning March 8. According to publicity materials, the DVD includes a making-of featurette and trailers.