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'Some Rain Must Fall' Peters Out

Courtesy of the Berlin International Film Festival / Wild Grass Films

Often in directorial debuts, the film will open with a strong story catalyst and execution in the first half, only to falter in the second. Sustaining narrative momentum can be a hurdle many filmmakers can’t quite clear, and such is this case in Qiu Yang’s Some Rain Must Fall. However, the film does find enough to offer as an engaging character study (albeit a flawed one) of a directionless housewife, Cai (Yu Aier), who finds herself in a sticky situation caused by a fit of rage. 


The film initially centres itself around Cai accidentally injuring an elderly woman with a basketball at one of her daughter’s practices. The incident turns her life upside down in a variety of ways, affecting her relationship with her family and making various events from the past resurface in the process. Yang vividly details the event itself and the immediate fallout through his strong knack for visual storytelling. 


Using subtle hints and implications throughout, Yang articulates the state of Cai’s existence showing her listlessly going through the motions, walking around almost in a stupor and with quick bursts of rage from her discontentment all leading to the aforementioned incident. Yu Aier is terrific as Cai, constantly fraying at the edges and her performance implodes with such visceral effect when the opportunity arises. 


The opening act of the film gives Yu some great scenes to work with as we watch her tersely converse with her estranged husband and rebellious daughter, with the backdrop of her unfortunate incident hanging over their heads like a ticking time bomb. Yang, who also serves as writer on the film, holds these conversations out with patience, letting the more casual and slower beats really sink in before unleashing the bigger moments. He keeps his camera often at a certain distance and waits for the right moment to close in, putting us right into scenes where characters regret what they’ve said or realised something about the nature of their relationships. 


The set up of the film is so strong, that it’s a shame Yang moves further away from it, focusing less and less on Cai’s unravelling secret past. So much of the tension of the first half of the film dissipates into a meandering narrative tempo, where new elements are introduced without much cohesion and previously established dynamics between Cai and her family are dropped for interactions with new characters who are suddenly introduced.

The shift in focus might have worked better had it been more seamless, but it feels rather jarring to suddenly have so much of what was established initially by the accident fade away for entirely new developments that only feel vaguely related to it. The technical aptitude of Yang remains apparent, but one wishes he could have focused a bit more on a few themes rather than trying to encompass the entirety of Cai’s life within its relatively brief runtime. 


Although Some Rain Must Fall falls into the trap of being overstuffed and undercooked in some of its later developments, the strength of the initial set-up and its compelling character study of Cai through her family dynamics remains compelling. As a feature film debut, it’s not quite a knockout, but bears quite a bit of promise for what’s to come for Yang.

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