The alteration in the dynamics between the two characters makes perfect sense as Muyl relocates his original French story to China for what is now the second-ever official co-production between the two countries. With Beijing’s long-running one-child policy, the issue of parents pampering their offspring to the point of creating a generation of spoilt brats has been much discussed in recent years; The Nightingale‘s narrative arc of teasing a kid’s open, curious inner self out her egocentric, iPad-attached shell is perhaps what the Chinese authorities would really want to see.
Whether audiences would warm to this, however, is another matter. Boasting of Sun Ming‘s lavish cinematography – the rural landscapes of the southwestern Chinese province of Guangxi are rendered in remarkably lush, warm tones, as is Beijing’s new bourgeois milieu rendered cold and unfriendly – and an engaging performance from Li Baotian (Ju Dou) as the grandfather, The Nightingale is technically remarkable. Beyond its socio-political context, however, the film offers hardly anything inventive to the familiar generation-gap rite-of-passage dramedy; festival bookings – such as its premiere in Busan, and then the outing on Thursday at the ScreenSingapore trade event – are probably where the film’s future lies rather than commercial runs in either France or China.