Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Rated 3.0

Director Wayne Wang and writers Angela Workman, Ron Bass and Michael K. Ray (from Lisa See’s novel) portray the laotong (a sort of formal blood-sister relationship) between two modern Shanghai women, Nina (Bingbing Li) and Sophia (Gianna Jun), and, in a novel Sophia is writing, one between two others (played by the same actresses) in 19th-century China during the Taiping Rebellion. As Sophia lies in a coma after a traffic accident, Nina reads the manuscript and sees that it’s Sophia’s disguised autobiography, running parallel to their own ups and downs. Hence the movie essentially tells the same story twice, each version enlightening the other. The movie is stately, solemn and serious, but easier to admire than to enjoy; we know little more about these four women at the end than we did at the beginning.