This review was originally published as part of our Toronto International Film Festival coverage on 9/9/18.
Chinese first time director Bai Xue makes her mark on the film world with The Crossing, a coming of age story with a criminal twist.
Peipei is a teenager living in Shenzhen and going to school in Hong Kong. She has to cross the border every day and customs officers ignore her in her school uniform. Wanting to go on holiday to Japan with her best friend, Jo, she starts smuggling iPhones from Hong Kong to the Mainland using her student ID as cover, but soon her short cut to making money starts to backfire on her.
The Crossing is a film that sticks to one idea – that of Peipei’s coming of age and her teenage impatience and naivety – and explores different methods of expressing that idea through form. This is director Bai Xue’s first feature, and it’s a confident debut that isn’t afraid to experiment with film language throughout.
Predominantly handheld, the camera reflects Peipei’s nervous energy as she finds herself becoming entangled in the smuggling group, and freeze frames and a range of music from different genres punctuate significant moments – for example, when she crosses the border with the iPhones heavy in her bag for the first time, making her nervous about being stopped and searched.
The threat involved in the smuggling stays relatively under the surface for much of the film, with Peipei managing to scrape her way out of her mistakes, but Xue focuses on how her relationships are affected by her new illegal job, with Jo becoming suspicious of Peipei’s absences and her already difficult relationship with her parents becoming more strained.
Energetic and character driven, with the crime plot balancing well with Peipei’s growth as a teenager, The Crossing is a bold debut feature that experiments with what cinema can do to tell a story.
CAST: Huang Yao, Sunny Sun, Carmen Soup, Kong May Yee Elena
WRITERS: Bai Xue, Lin Meiju
DIRECTOR: Bai Xue
SYNOPSIS: To realize the dream of seeing snow in Japan with her bestie, Peipei joins a smuggling gang and uses her student identity to smuggle iPhones from Hong Kong to Mainland.