The Road Home is the story of a country girl and a young teacher falling in love, and the teacher’s death many years later that brings their son back from the big city for the funeral. The film begins in black and white in present-day China when the son (Sun Honglei) returns to his village from the city upon hearing of his father’s death. His mother, Zhao Di (Zhao Yulian), insists upon following the tradition of carrying the coffin back to their remote village by foot so that her husband’s spirit will remember its way home. As the narrator, the son recounts the story of his parents’ courtship, so famous that it has gained the status of a legend in the village. It is here the bleak black and white turns into vivid colors as the story shifts to the past. His father, Luo Changyu (Zheng Hao), came to the village as the teacher. Immediately, Zhao Di (Zhang Ziyi) became infatuated with him and he with her. Thus began a courtship which consisted mostly of the exchange of looks and glances between the two. Unfortunately, the courtship was interrupted when Luo was summoned by the government to return to the city. (Several reviewers have speculated that the flashback portion of the film is set during the Anti-Rightist Campaign and that Luo’s recall was for investigation and questioning.) Zhao Di’s heart was broken; she insisted on waiting for him in the snow and fell so ill that the villagers thought she would die. However, upon hearing news of her illness, the teacher was able to sneak back to the village and Zhao Di, in tears, welcomed the sight of her beloved. Still, their love would not be consummated for a few years more because the teacher was kept away from the village as punishment for having left his assignment in the city without permission. Returning to the present day, and black and white, the son realizes how important this ritual of carrying the coffin back to village is to his mother, Zhao Di, and he agrees to make all necessary arrangements to fulfill her wish. He is told by the mayor of the village that it might be difficult to find enough porters to carry the father home, as there are few young able men left in the village. The mayor and the son reach an agreement on the price to be paid to the porters. But when the procession sets out, more than 100 people show up to help carry home the casket of the man who was their teacher through various generations in the village. The mayor returns the money to the son, as no one will accept payment for doing what they consider to be an honor rather than a task. On the morning of the day the son leaves to return to his job in the city, he fulfills his father’s dream and teaches a class in the old schoolhouse that was central to his parents having fallen in love, using the textbook his father had written himself.
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