Shot in 2012 but only released 3 years later, perhaps because of lead actress Yu Nan’s heightened profile after being in two of the biggest Chinese hits of the past months (Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Wu Jing’s Wolf Warrior), Yang Yazhou’s Feed Me also bears the distinction of starring Lin Hao, a boy who had become a national hero after rescuing several of his classmates in his collapsing school building during the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008. The hero-turned-actor plays a country boy who lives with his grandfather (Tao Zeru) on a boat, making regular trips to Shanghai to sell rapeseed. It is on one of those trips that upon returning to the boat, they find a pregnant woman (Yu Nan) who seems to be running away from something or someone. Soon she gives birth, and the grandfather lets her stay onboard both for the sake of the baby and because he’s been diagnosed with early senile dementia and worries as to who will take care of his grandson when he no longer can. But in the nearby village there’s gossip and disapproval of this situation, especially from a doctor (Vivian Wu) he is trying to woo. As for the boy, he grows more and more fascinated by this woman he sees as a potential surrogate mother.
Feed Me is a frustrating little film, squandering gorgeous cinematography and an obvious gift for evocative imagery by remaining stubbornly opaque throughout. Scenes are often interrupted gratuitously, abruptly, and are thus rarely allowed to gather any dramatic or emotional steam. No actual depiction of rural life in China is made, as the film mostly stays within the confines of the boat and the surrounding rapeseed field (admittedly a very cinegenic setting). And the film’s attempts at meaning are undermined by the fact that almost every character is annoyingly one-note : Tao Zeru is a shaky shell of a man, Lin Hao a yelly bumpkin, and Vivian Wu a nosy ice queen. It all quickly starts looking like one incredibly dull and static puppet show. Only Yu Nan gets to sink her teeth into an actual role, as she portrays a woman awakening to motherhood and re-awakening to life with her customary subtlety and vibrancy. Too bad her efforts are lost in the film’s general self-defeating pretentiousness.
Long Story Short : Sometimes visually gorgeous but always opaque and pretentious, Feed Me is a frustrating experience that squanders a typically strong performance by Yu Nan. *1/2