TIFF 2021: “One Second”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A parent that loves his or her child will move mountains to maintain a connection with the loved one. But when the same parent is being separated and the only chance he may get is a second of glimpse, how far do you think he will go to take full advantage of that one second?

It will be an understatement to call China’s Zhang Yimou the most influential figure in international cinema. With his latest “One Second”, he goes beyond his stature as the master of his craft and recreates a new cinematic experience you will be absorbed in fully. The touching character-driven drama introduces us to three main characters: a nameless hero (Zhan Yi), an orphan girl named Loi (Liu Haocun) and Mr Movie, aka Fan (Fan Wei) who will test each other’s patience, determination, devotion and persistence towards their needs. None of them will give up. All three of them have good reasons for that.

Set towards the end of the Cultural Revolution, and movies being the only source of entertainment helping people escape the harsh and controlled reality, the unnamed protagonist is sent to a remote labour camp from where he escapes. His intention was not to harm anybody and returns to town for one sole purpose – to watch Newsreel No.22, where his estranged daughter is being captured for one second. When he gets the newsreel, it is stolen by Orphan Liu, Mr Movie, the city’s only projectionist, but he is not aware of that. But once the newsreel is retrieved from the girl, the most important drama will begin afterwards, filled with humour, beautiful landscapes and moving performances.

“One Second” is one of those films that, right from the beginning, promises you an unforgettable ride and an experience of a lifetime. And that’s why Zhang Yimou is rightfully being considered as one of the best storytellers of his generation. It’s smart, has stunning cinematography and the cast fulfils the characters they portray to the limit. In fact, as you watch the film, you won’t even notice that it’s just a work of fiction. Because of its beauty, you will find yourself as a witness of a great story unfolding right in front of your eyes, because you no longer feel sitting on a comfortable chair at home or in the cinema, but rather being transported to an era from where you will be needing time to return back to. Because it’s as haunting and marvellous as the story itself.

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