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Review: 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'

Tale of a Chinese widower who comes to stay with his chilly Americanized daughter has quiet suspense and poignancy.

By Robert Koehler / September 20, 2008

Faye Yu and Henry O in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

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After flailing around for years with such anonymous films as "Maid in Manhattan" or such misbegotten affairs as "Chinese Box," it was fair to think that director Wayne Wang – once the great hope of independent Asian-American filmmakers – was a lost cause. Wang's "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" gives the impression of a director reborn, or at least a director who has his mojo back after closely studying the masterpieces of family life by Edward Yang and Yasujiro Ozu, both of whom loom large over this simple, pristine tale of Chinese widower Mr. Shi (Henry O) spending some time with his chilly Americanized daughter Yilan (Feihong Yu). While Shi's old-school Communist ideals strike Yilan as slightly amusing, his concerns about her well-being and snaring a husband become oppressive. To make matters worse for their relationship (but better for the film), she avoids confrontation, lending the drama a sense of quiet suspension and poignancy in its exploration of the often unbridgeable gap that separates parent from child. Grade: B (Unrated.)

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