Hot on the heels of I Am Not Madame Bovary comes Johnny Ma’s modern, neo-realist Old Stone, another film that suggests that if you’re going to live in mainland China, you’d best not get in any kind of trouble. Presented for your consideration is Lao Shi (Chen Gang), a taxi driver who accidentally swerves and hits but does not kill motorcyclist Li Jiang (Zhang Zebin) due to Shi’s drunken-businessman passenger (Wang Shenglong) grabs his arm for no good reason. Shi’s life comes crashing down around him as he discovers that things would have been better off for everyone if Jian had died in the accident — in which case Shi would have just had to pay a fine and that would have been that. But since he took Liang to the hospital, Shi’s now responsible for the comatose Liang’s medical bills, and everyone thinks he’s the asshole for trying to do the morally right thing. Though most of Old Stone takes place in the bustling city of Guangde — the smogginess of which might as well be a result of Shi’s chain-smoking — there are occasional cuts to spooky, Twin Peaks-esque trees foreshadowing Shi’s third-act attempt to get his life back, and the final freeze-frame is the cinematic equivalent of taking a stone right to the head. Ouch.
Old Stone Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.