Last Train Home
Release date: November, 2009
Director: Lixin Fan
The Last Train Home is a documentary that follows the Zhang family during the most tumultuous time of the year in China, Chinese New Year week, where train stations are packed with people from all over the country trying to get back home.
When I first heard about this documentary, I thought it’d be the perfect flick for the Chinese holidays. However, what I ended up with was completely different. I thought I’d be getting stories of different people struggling to make it home, ending up with a fuzzy reunion with the family. Last Train Home, however, focuses on the Zhangs, a family in which both parents work away in another city. They’ve been working their butts off for both kids Qin and Yang, but they’ve never been near them, never being able to see their kids grow up.
As a result, Qin — the older sister — feels completely disconnected from her dad and especially her mother, both wanting her to keep on studying to make something better of herself instead of just becoming a factory worker like her parents. This does not work, and Qin leaves her rural hometown, leaving her younger brother to tend to their grandfather’s grave and living with their grandmother.
All of this results in some heartbreaking family drama more than a documentary. Last Train Home feels often like a high-quality, low-budget indie drama because the Zhang family rarely acknowledges the cameras, so it feels more like we’re peeking into their lives without permission… which makes the drama even more sad.