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Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (2011)

tomatometer

6

Average Rating: 4.2/10
Critic Reviews: 31
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 29

No consensus yet.

audience

48

liked it
Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 6,298

My Rating

Movie Info

In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives,

Nov 1, 2011

$1.3M

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All Critics (88) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (69)

An ever-so-tasteful, watered-down and unnecessarily-improved-upon adaptation of Lisa See's bestselling 2005 novel of the same name.

October 7, 2011 Full Review Source: The Wrap
The Wrap
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The drastic alterations to Lisa See's compelling novel about the lifelong friendship between two women in 19th century China are unsettling, at least for fans of the original bestseller, and they detract a bit too much from the story See so artfully told.

August 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a coordinated, stylish dance, but the steps are awfully familiar.

July 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In this lavish adaptation of Lisa See's novel, the complex chronologies of the parallel narratives are skillfully handled by director Wayne Wang, which makes his reliance on unbridled sentimentality all the more irritating.

July 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" aims for the heartstrings and only strikes a few notes.

July 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is visually sumptuous but emotionally inert. It never draws in the viewer.

July 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a delicate, if sometimes disturbing, portrait of the enduring relationships that bond women together, out in theaters now.

February 28, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

Despite the unevenness, the sincerity of the work shines through.

February 1, 2012 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

It's a well shot film with beautiful cinematography, though it does feel a bit too constrained at times. But as beautiful as it was, the story and characters failed to grab me

January 22, 2012 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Were it not for the slow pacing and the obviousness of message, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan would have been successful.

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Although it looks fantastic, it barely registers on an emotional level because it feels so dull and manipulative.

November 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Scene-Stealers.com
Scene-Stealers.com

A from Hugh Jackman as a Mandarin-singing nightclub owner is about the only thing that livens up this generation-spanning tale of female friendship.

November 6, 2011 Full Review Source: Scotsman

It's a three-handkerchief weepie untainted by ugly politics.

November 6, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The whole looks lush, but it doesn't deliver as it should.

November 4, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Here is a very self-conscious attempt to bridge the US-China divide through the medium of glossy, handsomely mounted cinema.

November 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

This rich weave of eras looks pretty, but plays to an exoticised vision of old-world China, even as it demystifies the excruciating custom of foot-binding.

November 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Visual flourishes aren't enough to detract from a confused plot and mawkishly sentimental overtones.

November 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Not even the second best Hugh Jackman cameo of the year can save it from being little more than a period curio.

November 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Unfortunately that truth isn't illuminated with any originality: tearful confessions and pensive gazing out windows are commonplace.

September 21, 2011 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

A quality arthouse film, beautifully photographed and very well acted.

September 14, 2011 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

Despite strong performances and a rich premise, this is let down by its own self-importance and sentimentality.

September 13, 2011 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

With weeping violins, wailing cellos and melancholy piano wall to wall, this sentimental story of sisterly love found, lost and found again is beautifully made. The big but is the needlessly complicated storytelling

September 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

An intricate and beautiful film about friendship and its implications

September 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Sisters-for-life torn apart in schmaltzy Chinese melodrama.

September 1, 2011 Full Review Source: sbs.com.au
sbs.com.au

A grandly appointed disappointment.

August 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune
Times-Picayune

Audience Reviews for Snow Flower And The Secret Fan

I read the book a long time ago, but I still remember bits and pieces. This story nicely depicts that book, in my opinion. No movie can EVER completely follow a book, nor should it. These are different interpretations of a story. This movie was very well done, moving, and beautiful. I greatly enjoyed the parallels made with the modern world, and the ancient. This movie does not need to be compared to the book. It stands quite well enough on its own....
October 3, 2012
itsjustme2004

Super Reviewer

Directed by Wayne Wang, IDG China Media & Fox Searchlight Productions, 2011. Starring Bingbing Li, Gianna Jun and Hugh Jackman.

Genre: Drama, History

Question: Do you share a lifelong friendship with someone - a friendship that makes your life better, helps you through the dark times and shares the good times? Beaches showed a lifelong bond between two women and it told a nice tale, however, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan just wiped Beaches away with one flick of the fan. This may have been one of the greatest friendships stories I have ever witnessed on film. Lovely, just lovely.

We have all had friendships when we were little, some even lasting into our early adulthood or beyond. You are lucky if you find a friendship like that. I had a friend when I was young and I loved her like a sister. Unfortunately, that friendship ended.. A few years later I tried again with another when I got to high school. In fact, I even saw Beaches with my "best friend", which is what you did when it came out in 1988. We laughed together and we cried together and said "That was so us." However, she ended the friendship a few years later and I have had difficulty ever since trusting others.

So, I am always leery to see anything about a strong friendship between two women, but I am trying to expand my movie genres and decided upon Snow Flower and the Secret Fan since it was a foreign film. I hadn't reviewed a foreign film yet. I am happy to say I am glad I put my personal concerns aside.

There are two stories told within this movie about a friendship between two women: one in modern-day China and one in 19th century China. Each story mirrors the other when trying to describe the love these two women had for each other. Both stories used the same actresses to tell the tales: Lily/Nina, (Bingbing Li)and Snow Flower/Sophia (Gianna Jun).

In modern-day China, the girls are school friends. One helps the other learn better mandarin since she is Korean. They are inseparable despite the disapproval of Sophia's stepmother. However, her aunt knows of their strong friendship and tells them the story of the laotong girls or "old sames". This is an ancient way of how girls were bound together for eternity in friendship. These friendships were necessary due to the horrific obligatory life they had with men. It was an ultimate support system.

Something happens to one of the modern girls and then the ancient story starts about Snow Flower and Lily - another pair of laotong girls. Their story paralleled the modern one and wove in and out seamlessly.

Their story started in 19th century China as little girls (age 7) both had their feet bound on the same day. Yes, this was something they used to do to make sure their feet wouldn't grow. Their feet were not supposed get bigger than a few inches - in their world that was "perfection". This was to insure them worthy enough for a man. There were a few scenes about this torturous method that were very hard to watch.

However, the young girls were then made to live together and then sworn to each other as laotong girls. This made them very happy. Then they learned a secret language to help them communicate where men could not see. This would be written on fans and passed back and forth as they grew up, married off and tried to have sons - since they weren't considered fit wives or decent women if they had only girls.

I will admit the ancient story of the bound feet, the abuse they had to endure, the control men had over women, and something that everyone went along with, had me sick to my stomach. There was even one scene, although most of it was only heard, had me in tears with certain amount of anger only because I know things like that happened and still can happen today. However, the next scene was between Snow Flower and Lily and I think I cried even harder. Not a word spoken by either of them but the love, the kindness, the friendship portrayed was breathtaking.

I have not revealed much of the plot with this review - just a few facts and some parts that made a powerful impact on me. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a beautiful movie about a friendship that will last 10,000 years. To witness something like that on film was a gift. I hope you get a chance to see this film; and I hope you are fortunate to see it with your best friend.

My favorite thing: The scene I mentioned earlier with Snow Flower and Lily.

My least favorite thing: Witnessing the control and abuse women had to endure.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes

Review: 9 out of 10

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Lisa See.
June 7, 2012
Tired of Previews
Tired of Previews

Super Reviewer

For Me to review this film isn't fair as its an Asian chick flick, so my rating would be much lower then most females. It is a interesting story about two girls who both modern day and very far back in the past who are morally bound to each other. Lacks the detail of costume that I've grown accustomed to and find enjoyable in Asian Film Making, seem to have a bit of American influence in this one. 3 Stars
January 9, 2012
bbcfloridabound
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

On the eve of Sebastian(Archie Kao) and Nina(Bingbing Li) moving to New York for work, Nina receives news that Sophia(Gianna Jun), an old friend she had met as a teenager when she tutored her in Chinese, is in a coma from being hit by a car on her bicycle. Nina is surprised when told that Sophia was trying to call her shortly before her accident since they had not talked in so long. That's nothing compared to discovering the manuscript Sophia had written about a friendship between two girls in rural China in 1829.

The well-produced "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" has certain things also going for it in its rare thoughtful exploration of the friendship between two women, coupled with how China has a problematic relationship with its past, with a focus on the barbaric practice of foot binding which here is sort of fetishized. That having been said, the movie would have been much improved concentrating on just one time period, not three, instead making this feel like mainly just the highlights of a pretty good television series, complete with special guest star.
March 6, 2013
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

    1. Nina/Lily: I'd like to spend more time with my laotong tonight.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
    1. Snow Flower/Sophia: I'm writing a book. It's about the old days.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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