Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Cinetic Media

Chinese Huang Ji fortuitously met Japanese Ryûji Otsuka while Otsuka pursued independent filmmaking in China. Director Ji’s focus on Chinese women’s predicaments resonated with cinematographer/producer Otsuka. Their harmonious real life and on-screen partnership is on full display in their co-directed work “Stonewalling” in which twenty-year-old Lynn, training as a flight attendant, grapples with an unexpected pregnancy.

To earn money to help defer debt from her gynecologist mother surgical mishap, Lynn pursued egg donation, thereby discovering her condition and subsequently hiding it from her father. Her indifferent boyfriend Zhang complicates Lynn’s problems, deferring any real support, reinforcing Lynn’s isolation. Meantime, treated as a disposable, attractive commodity, ironically, she models in a princess costume for an upscale jewelry store.

The film, just short of two and a half hours, details Lynn’s dilemma as she must choose among abortion, keeping her baby, or agreeing to an adoption. Prospective clients for her and other women catalog positive and negative details in emotionless interviews: height, facial features, hair, best attributes, etc.—a callous survey. What emerges quite clearly through Lynn’s prolonged anxiety is modern China’s detachment, a sobering reality equally clear in her gynecologist mother’s side hustle selling Vital Cream (which involves shaving one’s head and rubbing in this magic potion). All women must painstakingly navigate the economic reality of Changsha, Hunan China’s capital. Adding relevance, co-director Ji cast her own parents and shot in their apartment. The claustrophobic impact defines every scene, undermining autonomy, emphasizing limited agency.

The third film in a series following “Egg and Stone” (2012) and “The Foolish Bird” (2017), “Stonewalling” stands alone though all three focus on young women coming to terms with their complex sexuality exploited in this gig economy. As Ji has said, because she and Ryûji come from two countries, they “view people and situations from different perspectives.” Proving this, they powerfully depict an insensitive, cold environment. In Hunanese with English subtitles, “Stonewalling” screens at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, May 26 through Sunday, May 28 at 7:30 each of those evenings. For more information, you may visit the film series website.

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