Together tells the story about Liu Xiaochun, a thirteen year old boy with a prodigal talent at the violin. His father, Liu Peiqi enters him for a musical competition in Beijing, and although his son finishes fifth, his residence not in Beijing renders him invalid. His dad persuades a music professor to take his son on whilst he goes back home, thus leaving Liu Xiaochun away from his dad for the first time in his life.
Appropriately, for a film about the violin, the music in this film is stunning. This humble story is also written by the director, telling the story with stirring emotive force. Liu Xiaochun proves to be the kind of sensitive soul that far few 13-year-olds are. In its own little way, Together makes me appreciate my parents much more and evoke tears whenever I think about how much they’ve sacrificed for me. The supporting actors are all good, showing the subtle ways in which the people young Xiaochun meets shape his development and life.
It’s refreshing to witness the friendships and platonic loves that the protagonist meets throughout the film. Xiaochun has two music teachers throughout the film, and each is at a dead end in his life about something, and these themes are investigated with sensitivity. Far be it from being a film about just the violin, themes of friendship, determination, courage, and love are all in here. The film is not without its melodramatic moments, but that only heightened my enjoyment of it. And, whilst it has been criticized by some for being too saccharine, to that I say, what’s so bad about sugary once in a while? As Chen Kaige himself said, "being Chinese isn't all misery”.
Tang Yun, a real-life violinist, was selected for the role when director Chen Kaige saw him at a concert, and his performance is genuine as it is heartfelt. Liu Peiqi is incredible as the father who makes sacrifice upon sacrifice because he wants the best for his son – a gesture that is shown to be even more affecting when the flashback shows how the father came to find his son (few films scenes have had me crying so much, and for so long).
In fact, despite his violin skills being the catalyst and plot driving force in the film, I see Together more as a universal tale of the love between a father and son. The father isn’t perfect; he’s poor and struggling to make ends meet, but this is something that makes his devotion to his son easier to relate to.
There are two things about Together that resonated with me: the fact that I’m Chinese and the fact that I play violin. And it’s true; watching Together did make me appreciate the violin more, as well feel nostalgia for my homeland. But my appreciation for the film came from far more than just those similarities.
Cinema is an art form that transcends mere entertainment. It can inspire debate, conversation, raise pertinent topics. It can make an everyday story more exciting and interesting with the aid of music, cinematography and beautiful art direction. But the main reason I watch films is to feel. Human emotion can be felt by anybody, anywhere. And in getting me to feel pathos, bathos and the spectrum of emotions in between, Together achieves that aim perfectly.