Aftershocks (Tangshan dadizhen)

Critics Consensus

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91%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 11

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,783
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Movie Info

Two natural disasters frame a story of a mother, her children and a painful decision that scars them forever in this grand-scale drama from China. In 1976, Li Yuanni (Xu Fan) is living in the city of Tangshan with her two children, seven year old twins Fang Da and Fang Deng. The family's life is simple but full of joy until a massive earthquake levels the city and leaves a swath of destruction in its wake. Amidst the wreckage, Li Yuanni discovers both Fang Da and Fang Deng are caught under a concrete slab, and if enough is broken to rescue one of the children, it would tip the balance and crush the other. Li Yuanni is asked which child should be saved, and she impulsively answers her son Fang Da. The boy is rescued, but the effort costs him his arm; meanwhile, the daughter Fang Deng is left for dead but miraculously survives, and is eventually adopted by another family without Li Yuanni's knowledge. The mother is forced to live with the shame of her decision, Fang Da grows to be a physically and emotionally broken man, and Fang Deng studies medicine, starts a family on her own and leaves China for Canada. It's not until 2008 that the story of the mother and the daughter she lost comes full circle in the wake of another earthquake in Sichuan. A massive commercial success in China, Tang Shan Da Di Zhen (aka Aftershock) made its North American debut at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Cast

Daoming Chen
as Wang Deqing
Fan Xu
as Li Yuanni
Jingchu Zhang
as Fang Deng
Chen Li
as Fang Da
Zi-feng Zhang
as Young Fang Deng
Jiajun Zhang
as Young Fang Da
Yi Lu
as Yang Zhi
Zhang Guoqiang
as Fang Daqiang
Ziwen Wang
as Xiao He
Lixin Yang
as Lao Niu
Lü Zhong
as Grandmother
Lili Liu
as Sichuan Mother
Jin Chen
as Dong Guilan
Baowen Zhang
as Wang Zhiguo's Wife
Qiuzi Ma
as Director Zhao
Yi Jing Lu
as Woman Teacher
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Critic Reviews for Aftershocks (Tangshan dadizhen)

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (4)

  • There's no doubt about it: this film's an unashamed heart-wringer and a tear-jerker, but it packs an almighty punch and the CGI work at the very beginning, as Tangshan crumbles into nothingness, is impressive and pretty scary.

    Nov 11, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Perfect hokum for those who don't mind having their heart strings strummed like a banjo.

    Nov 10, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The film may be a blunt instrument, but it's rarely maudlin -- the exception being the performance of Mr. Feng's wife, Fan Xu, as the long-suffering mother -- and is, on occasion, quite moving.

    Nov 4, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • [An] involving, well-acted saga of a family torn apart by a devastating earthquake...

    Oct 28, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Delivers what it promises, and at times more so. Xiaogang Feng manages to tell a touching story, whilst also expanding it to incorporate a larger tale of China and its people's survival through hardship.

    Nov 6, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Mimics the worst of Hollywood's excesses, pairing gratuitous shock with patriotism and a flood of tear-jerking moments calculated for awards bodies' consideration.

    Dec 1, 2010 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Aftershocks (Tangshan dadizhen)

  • Oct 21, 2013
    Disaster movies tends to treat a natural disaster as the centerpiece or spectacle of the film. Forgetting to spend time exploring the human side of such an event and the profound effect it can have on a person's life. Tangshan dadizhen (Aftershock in English) is unlike many in its league distinguishing itself by having a human core in the center of it all. I'll even dare call it the greatest natural disaster film ever made. Tangshan dadizhen (Aftershock) tells the story of a family separated as a result of the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976. Upon the first the act we get the basic setup; a loving family bond, a day in a pre-natural disaster state, and establishing the state of mind an entire nation's people. Essential character development flourishes within the first act of the film presenting a loving average family. These moments of character development early in the film are important as the natural disaster occurs earlier than one's might expect. Narrative wise this choice could have damaged the film having the disaster occur within the first act, but in this film the Earthquake nor the mayhem it causes the focus. Instead the natural disaster is a defining incident in our character live through that forever change them. It'll pull heartstrings seeing a mother desperately looking for her children in the shambles of what remains for her city with citizens frantically acting to help. What occurs to the mother is difficult to watch in an emotionally devastating scene. For the purpose of that scene and anyone interested in seeing the film I won't give the specifics of what occurs away possibly lessening its impact. Once the Earthquake hits the majority of the film is a centerpiece on the impact the Earthquake had on the characters. We see them grow up attempting to forget the horrific past. Bringing up at one point by a survivor while mourning the lost it might have been better to die than live with it scars. The character lives expresses the aftermath has on the victims and attempting to live a regular life. It's relatable regardless of your position in experiencing a natural disaster. Certainly not everyone will experience what it is liked living through an Earthquake, but everyone at one point will be come to face a trouble romance, leaving your parents living in the world on your own, being stuck in memories living on a glorious past during a unpleasant present, starting a family, and many more reflectable themes. Putting into to perspectives that forces far from our control has to complexities to it than a simple statistic and our best wishes. It's a fully realized story that fleshes out human natures with it characters from tragedies and the uplifting nature of family. All the performances are fully realized with it cast of actors casting a smile and tear on your face. Xu Fan leads the film with her performance as a depress mother. Fan character carries her scars the longest delivery a performance that's not too overly emotional to detract from realism. She comes as someone cold and damaged never to point where we see her as a machine. Weaving a character whose humanity is still in tact, but baring years of scar both physically and how she verbally deliver her line. Zhang Jingchu strength is the ability to make a character performance so believable yet human. Chen Li is all class and humane as the caring fostering father of Guoqiang Zhang. His portrayal of the fatherly role is fitting and steals the show with his glaring eyes. His moments of anger are a joy to watch, along with his interaction with his wife and daughter. Tangshan dadizhen (Aftershock) is tragically powerful as it emotionally moving. an expression of life and the difficult struggles that come with it. By the end of the film you will be given a better perspectives on such disastrous incidents. Life changes people sometime with forces out of our control, but never are common struggles and people are far from our understanding.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 11, 2013
    In this, the explosive first major IMAX blockbuster outside of the United States, we behold... one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century. Wow, when you put it like that, this sounds either like profiting off of tragedy or, well, "Titanic", and this film is certainly no "Titanic". Now, that's not to say that this film's isn't good, because it is indeed quite good, it's just to say that "Titanic" was great, probably because we Americans actually remembered it and put so much filmmaking effort into it that we ended up breaking ground... with the help of a Canadian filmmaker who oversaw a cast that was filled with non-Americans. Seriously though, it's a disgusting shame that the horrible Tangshan earthquake isn't more recognized, at least enough for there to be more major filmmakers attached to this project in order to pump it up, but hey, I reckon you could say that this blockbuster does, in fact, like "Titanic", involve breaking ground, if you know what I mean. Lame and kind of morbid earthquake joke aside, this was a big deal that hasn't gotten the international recognition it deserves, though I'm glad that at least someone remember this disaster, because this film was such a huge hit over in China that it grossed 665 million Yuan. Granted, in USD, that's only about $108 million, something that blockbusters like "Titanic" grosses over the weekend, but either way, the point is that this film was a success, and it sure deserves it, because this is one compelling film. Still, while this film is by no means an earthquake-grade disaster, it's not without shakes and rumbles that are outside of this important subject matter. A mostly meditative drama that pays thoughtful attention to the lives of its characters, the film, of course, has moments in which gets carried away with its steadiness, thus creating slow spots that bland things up a bit, while calling your attention more towards the final product's runtime, which, at around two hours and a quarter, isn't necessarily sprawling, but a bit longer than it probably should be. Sure, the film generally takes advantage of its relative lengthiness to flesh out its depths as a drama, but with some excess material, if not meandering repetition, this film takes on overdrawn spots that create a final product that takes more time than it should to tell a story that, quite frankly, seems a bit too familiar. The film is effective enough to feel refreshing in certain areas, but it's hard to not notice some kind of Hollywood-esque formulaic approach to the telling of a tale that is worthy, but would be stronger if its interpretation's structure didn't seem too familiar for its own good, which isn't to say that the resonance-diluting issues within Su Xiaowei's script end there. This film's story is an emotional one, and its dramatic potential deserves to be celebrated as much as it can be, but in oh so many places, Xiaowei gets kind of carried away in his dramatic writing, which has a tendency to slip into subtlety issues that are generally adequately compensated for by inspiration within Feng Xiaogang's directorial storytelling, but still stand, creating a sense of sentimentality that wants so hard to juice dramatic kick, but just its up holding it back a bit. I can understand why this film would get so passionate about telling this tale, as this subject matter is very important, yet in a somewhat Hollywood fashion, the film all too often resorts to sentimentality to summon an emotional rise that perhaps would have been more effective if this film was more solely reliant on its more genuinely inspired areas. Really, if nothing else can be said about the film, it's ambitious, and such ambition not only breathes much life into the aforementioned subtlety issues, but emphasizes other shortcomings, so much so that the final product faces a very real risk of collapsing into a bit of underwhelmingness. Still, when it's all said and done, the film cuts through all of its issues in pacing, originality and sentimentality enough to compel thoroughly, or at least deliver on commendable artistry that even works its way into the musical aspects. Wang Liguang's score could be a bit more recurring, even though when it is played up, it sometimes takes on a formulaic spirit that augments sentimentality a bit, yet not to where you can easily forget the strengths of Liguang's efforts, whose rich tastefulness is both commendable on a musical level, and mostly adds to resonance with an audible elegance that goes nicely with visual elegance, powered by cinematography Lü Yue that isn't consistently striking, but has its moments of play with lighting that is just downright gorgeous. The film is very well-done on a musical and stylistic level, with artistic eyes and ears that help in springing this world to life, at least when we're not faced with visual effects that impress... in a very much relative way, seeing as how Chinese cinema hasn't exactly mastered digital effects, as reflected by many a questionable area within this film's effects, which are still well-conceived and adequately convincing enough to be effective when the earthquake comes. Sure, this film is more of a study on the aftermath of the Tangshan earthquake, so the big plays with visual effects arrive early in the film, then quickly depart, never to be seen again, but impress just fine, if you can get past technical shortcomings, helping in selling you on this film's story in a stylish fashion that, at the end of the day, isn't really needed for you to get invested in this worthy subject matter. When I say that it's a mighty shame that there are plenty of non-Chinese nowadays who can't quite recollect the Tangshan earthquake of 1976 and its aftermath, I really do mean it, because this disaster was a devastating one whose impact dug deep into Chinese society for years and still lingers to this day, as this film reminds you, focusing not only on the horror of the earthquake's arrival, but on the changes faced by society and individuals after the disaster, thus making for a promising story concept that deserves the inspired interpretation that it does, in fact, get, even when it comes to the acting department. The dramatic potential within this very human drama gives our performers plenty of opportunities to deliver, and they do not disappoint, with our leads breaking up charming restraint during the calmer moments with a moving dramatic range that asserts commitment within the performances, while adding to the human depth of this character piece. On the screen, much of the potential within this drama is well-explored through inspired acting, and when it comes to a certain performance off of the screen, director Feng Xiaogang does not disappoint, or at least not on the whole, as his dry spells in atmosphere - broken up by sentimental spells - and overambition don't exactly do much to fight back the shortcomings within Su Xiaowei's script, most of whose flaws are nonetheless compensated for by what is done quite right within Xiaogang's storytelling, whose thoughtfulness gives you enough insight into the lives of our leads to get you by during the slower moments and really power the film's highest notes in resonance, whether they be seen within gripping tension during and briefly after the earthquake, or within dramatically effective notes that fight through sentimentality enough to move as deeply touching, if not occasional able to inspire a choke-up. I really do wish I could say that Xiaogang was even more charged in his efforts as director, almost as much as I wish I could say that Xiaowei was more clean in his efforts as screenwriter, because there is just so much potential to this film, but in the end, there is enough done quite right in the final product for it to compel, maybe not on the level that it could have, but certainly on a fairly rewarding level. When the shaking ceases, you're left with a very strong film whose full potential is too stricken by slow spells, dragged out areas in story structuring, conventionalism and sentimentality to be fully realized, which isn't to say that there's not still enough inspiration within Wang Liguang's lovely score, Lü Yue's attractive cinematography, questionable, but generally decent effects, strong acting and thoughtful direction to make Feng Xiaogang's "Aftershock" a compelling study on the impact of one of the great natural disasters of the 20th century. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Apr 01, 2013
    A rather long, but well done, touching movie based around the 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China. Incredible story about the decisions a mother had to make in the aftermath, and the decisions each family member makes to pick up their lives, and move forward. I found the changes in the town, attire and vehicles as the decades progressed particularly interesting. The film did a good job of also showing how the rigid Maoist China gradually became more Westernized and materialistic, e.g. bicycles in the 1970's vs. BMW in the 2000's. Good job! (except the one Canadian actor that they could find. He was terrible, but thankfully was only in it for a minute).
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 25, 2012
    A really heart breaking movie. Performance of each character was really good. Made me sad to tell you the truth.
    Dead A Super Reviewer

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