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Last Train Home (2009)



Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 51 | Rotten: 0

Last Train Home is a haunting, vivid documentary exploring the human toll of China's economic boom in intimate, unforgettable detail.


Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 18
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 0

Last Train Home is a haunting, vivid documentary exploring the human toll of China's economic boom in intimate, unforgettable detail.



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Movie Info

Every spring, China's cities are plunged into chaos as 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year's holiday. This mass exodus is the world's largest human migration-an epic spectacle that reveals a country tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future. Working over several years in classic verité style Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan (with the producers of the award-winning hit documentary Up the Yangtze) travels with one couple who have

Feb 22, 2011


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All Critics (51) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (51) | Rotten (0) | DVD (3)

Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan considers the social upheavals wrought by China's economic miracle.

January 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Last Train Home is a harrowing experience. Don't expect to come out smiling.

November 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
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Lixin Fan, handling his own cinematography, shoots with such a painterly eye that he almost undermines the social critique he's making.

October 21, 2010 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan presents the human cost of China's economic rise in terms any parent or child can understand.

October 21, 2010 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Last Train Home suggests that the times they are a-changin'. The rulers of China may someday regret that they distributed the works of Marx so generously.

October 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comment (1)
Chicago Sun-Times
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Fan's fly-on-the-wall perspective enables the viewer to empathize with all the players in the family drama, unlikely to have a happy ending.

October 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Rivaling China's finest documentarians, first-time director Lixin Fan begins his Last Train Home with a handful of unshakable images.

November 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

Epic in scale and global in outlook yet devastatingly intimate and extraordinarily personal in focus...

May 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Lixin Fan's amazingly intimate account could only be made with almost unlimited and unrestrained access -- a privilege that isn't abused and one that pays dividends for us in many ways.

May 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A moving film that succeeds both on a macro level and as a portrait of a single family struggling with problems both universal and specific to their time and place.

February 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

A startling and absolutely superb masterpiece of a documentary ...

January 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

This extraordinary Chinese-Canadian documentary illuminates the human price involved in China's ascent into a global economic power: every year over 130 million migrant workers take an arduous journey back home.

December 17, 2010 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Despite being ruled by the Communist Party, the China depicted in this powerful documentary evokes Karl Marx: "The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation."

November 28, 2010 Full Review Source:

Lixin captures the messy tragedy of their lives with dignity and intimacy, and there are some scenes, such as a violent confrontation between father and daughter, that carry the sting of reality.

November 12, 2010 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Director Lixin Fan gives a heartbreaking human voice to the downside of China's economic upside -- causing us to question the intrinsic worth of ambition, be it individual, societal or national.

November 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Indie Movies Online
Indie Movies Online

Last Train Home finds a kind of desperate poetry in the hardships of the annual trip home...

November 5, 2010 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Last Train Home will tug at your heartstrings as it opens your eyes, but it also will make you feel incredibly lucky and more than a little spoiled.

November 5, 2010 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Heartbreaking and humanistic in the best sense.

November 4, 2010 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

This small masterpiece of documentary filmmaking offers a human-scale look at the impact of China's industrial growth.

October 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

An extraordinary debut film... uncomfortably powerful and direct in its indictment of an entire way of living that the wealthier parts of the world take for granted.

October 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

It's vivid and revealing, but it's also tough to watch.

October 22, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

It's a fascinating, heartbreaking attempt to capture the overwhelming hugeness, and harsh growing pains of China's exploding economy, by focusing on one family.

October 15, 2010 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Last Train Home

Moral: China = one big clusterf**k. Well, there's more than that. The film was effective in transporting the viewer into crowded scenarios in just about any context: trains, homes, public stations, factories, rinse, wash, repeat. But the film took some kind of Soderberghian low-fi approach to storytelling, rather than taking a documentarian approach. The story specifically follows a mother and father who work 2100km away from their children - who are being raised by the grandmother - and the sacrifices they make for working hard and raising money for them from afar, bla dee bla bla. It's meant as a juxtaposition to the western way of life, but the sheer staginess and artificiality of each scene didn't let us forget that with a few inserted lines of exposition: "Westerners are fat!" "Westerners spend all their money!" etc. etc. It was tiresome, and the story uninvolving because at least 3/4 of the film seemed fakely set up. Sure, there were some artistically rendered frames of the lovely Sichuan province and the grimy, hazy cityscapes choking in factory smoke (evoking those Police lyrics, "it's dark all day and it glows all night, with factory smoke and acetylene light"). But there are some frames that feel too much like the director asked the subjects to sit in a certain way because it might look neat or something. There's not a whole lot of intimacy with a teenage girl lamenting her grandfather's passing to a Buddha idol with a cameraman standing 3 feet away in her face. I mean, unless this is a fiction piece - and it isn't - how can you really be absorbed with the story? Because of this specific inauthenticity, the grander authenticity of cultural sacrifices and a study of Chinese peasantry was impeded greatly. In other words, it was a really, really boring film. And that's too bad, because there was some good material here to work with.
October 27, 2010
Mike Neumann

Super Reviewer

"Last Train Home" is a heartbreaking documentary about migrant workers in China who number about 130 million. If the filmmakers had stopped with just the awe-inspiring crowd footage of all of them trying to get home at Chinese New Year, this would still have been very compelling viewing.(It is amazing how they got the footage in the first place which also shows the police and soldiers displaying an admirable level of restraint.) As it is, the movie goes deeper with an emphasis on one couple who have been migrants for the past sixteen years and their trip home of 2100 kilometers, that not only involves a crowded train but also a bus, an antiquated ferry and local bus to their home village where everybody of age has left to seek work elsewhere. Now, it is their 16-year old daughter Qin's turn which creates a lot of tension in the household, since they expected her to continue her studies. These parents, like others elsewhere, see their work lives as sacrifices, so the next generation can have it better and not go through the same things they have had to.(There are differences, as most of the money earned by these workers is saved, not spent. At the same time, the workers form an opinion of the western world, based on the products they make, especially jeans with 40 inch waistlines.) But sadly that is not the case and this continuing trend of worker migration is slowly shaking China apart; at the same time the country is also coming together to celebrate the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
September 8, 2010
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

The plight of the Chinese lower class in changing economic times has received several treatments over the last couple of years. This one was particularly poignant. I think about what this couples' life is like currently. The attachment felt by the viewing audience is genuine.
February 8, 2011
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

A tragic movie about the Chinese 'migration' for New Year. The movie follows one family, and is much less about New Year's celebrations than about their own personal turmoil.
July 27, 2010

Super Reviewer

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