On the way to work in a neighboring town, Wang(Wang Jinchun), an actor, gives his 11-year old son, Han(Liu Wenquing), a ride part of the way on his bicycle to his school where he has just been appointed to lead morning gymnastics and Jue Hong(Mo Shiyi), an older student, has been called to the principal's office. The only thing is that Mrs. Zhao feels Han needs a new shirt which his mother(Yen Ni), now in charge of the household and a factory worker, says they cannot afford, wanting to save the ration coupons and the money for the New Year celebration, even over her son's epic sulking. But once she talks to the teacher and sees him in action, she changes her mind.
As endearing as "11 Flowers" can be with an ending that is definitely a punch to the gut, I was wondering when watching this if I was actually watching a movie about a shirt. To be honest, I have seen movies that have succeeded on less but set as this is at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, it does need more in its rambling narrative, as otherwise it just feels like these momentous events happened to everybody else. So while the most important events happen offscreen, including stranding an intriguing mystery, telling the story exclusively from Han's point of view does work really well in a couple of places where it takes a couple of seconds to ascertain what exactly is happening.