Shanghai businesswoman Nina is about to jet off to New York when she hears her childhood best friend Sophia is in a coma following a car accident. During Nina’s subsequent vigil, she recalls how they became laotong – sworn sisters – as schoolgirls, but then saw their life paths diverge.
In parallel to this story is the one (played by the same women) of Sophia’s ancestor Snow Flower in Hunan in the early 19th century, and her laotong Lily. Both had their feet bound at age seven, a crippling disfigurement designed to make them more attractive to rich husbands.
Despite its historical interest, this meandering and not very engaging adaptation has no clear message about China’s modernisation or female emancipation. And if you were expecting girl-on-girl action or martial arts, you’ll be disappointed. Though if you were expecting a weird song-and-dance cameo by Hugh Jackman an hour in, you won’t be. 5/10
Released September 15, 2011.