Not One Less (Day 24)

None One LessMy Opinion: 6.7 || A movie that steadily gathers narrative and emotional momentum. The naïve, headstrong protagonist Wei is a refreshingly peculiar girl whose flaws are indistinguishable from her strengths. It’s a delicately flavored film, which makes the genuine sweetness of the conclusion all the more satisfying.

TITLE: Not One Less (Yi ge dou bu neng shao)
DIRECTOR: Yimou Zhang
LANGUAGE: Mandarin | COUNTRY: China
YEAR: 1999
PROFILE: Drama | 106 minutes | IMDb (7.6)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each day and promises her an extra 10 yuan if there’s not one less student when he returns. Within days, poverty forces the class troublemaker, Zhang Huike, to leave for the city to work. Wei, possessed of a stubborn streak, determines to bring him back.

Not One Less

Strengths and Weaknesses: The movie’s slice-of-life naturalism is a real pleasure, and although it’s a very simple plot, Zhang fills it with a number of tiny twists that are effective at both accentuating the realism and maintaining our interest. Even when we know where it’s going, we don’t know where it’s going.

Teacher Wei — 13 years old and woefully over her head — is an exasperating protagonist at times, making one badly reasoned decision after another. But that lack of shrewdness is precisely what enables her to succeed, and it’s what lends her courage and success a refreshing originality.

Most important, Zhang shows a perfect touch with the secondary characters whom Wei and Zhang Huike encounter. The small acts of kindness and neglect, of caring and pettiness, are measured out in perfectly realistic portions.

Characters/Performances: Wonderful casting — every character seems plucked from real life, including the marvelous children.

None One Less

Best Moment: When Wei, who has reached bottom, finally gets the help she needs, it’s one of the best “feel good” moments in any film — because she and Zhang have both earned it with their gentle conviction and persistence.

File Under: school, poverty, street children, persistence