Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2006)


Critic Consensus: Doesn't reach the heights of Zhang Yimou's best, but this is still a heartwarming tale of love and forgiveness from the acclaimed Chinese director.


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Movie Info

On the heels of such extravagant historical swordplay epics as Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Mainland Chinese director Zhang Yimou returns to the reins to tell this intimate tale of an aging father who attempts to remedy a longstanding rift with his grown son. Summoned to Tokyo by his daughter-in-law, Rie (Shinobu Terajima), village fisherman Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura), arrives at a city hospital to find his son, Ken-ichi (Kiichi Nakai), bedridden by liver cancer. Though Gou-ichi attempts to use the visit as a catalyst to heal a decade-long dispute between the pair, stubborn Ken-ichi rejects his father's attempt at reconciliation outright. Subsequently handed a videotape by Rie before departing back to the countryside, Gou-ichi returns home unsuccessful in his efforts to build a bridge of peace between himself and his ailing son. Upon watching the videotape, a research project exploring the Chinese folk arts that was shot by Ken-ichi in the Southern province of Yunnan, Gou-ichi is oddly affected by the onscreen failure of his son in convincing well-known opera singer Li Jiamin (playing himself) to perform the titular song, a classic operatic piece espousing the values of friendship. Now determined to travel to Yunnan and videotape the performance that his son could not, Gou-ichi embarks on a life-changing quest that will not only give him a greater understanding of the relationship between himself and his own son, but set into motion a healing process that will also have a profound impact on the troubled opera singer and the man's long-lost illegitimate son as well.

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Ken Takakura
as Gou-ichi Takata
Shinobu Terajima
as Rie Takata
Kiichi Nakai
as Ken-ichi Takata
Li Jiamin
as Himself
Qiu Lin
as Lingo
Jiang Wen
as Jasmine
Yang Zhenbo
as Yang Yang
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Critic Reviews for Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

All Critics (75) | Top Critics (24)

What remains most vividly after Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles, however, is not its story but its world--the immersion in that world of a foreigner, not a polo-shirted Yank but a stiff-necked Japanese. And it is all overseen by a Chinese director.

Oct 26, 2006

It sounds like a slight plot, and it is, but it is rich in detail that makes up for the simplicity of the story.

Oct 19, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5

It's a masterful little film, and, thanks to Zhang's seasoned hands, it's subtly heartfelt but never manipulative.

Oct 19, 2006 | Full Review…

A father takes a spiritual journey from Japan to China to help mend a decades-long rift between himself and his dying son. The lessons learned en route are as profound as they are simple.

Oct 13, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Relatively speaking, minor Yimou, yet it retains that extraordinary cinematic sensibility and superbly observed humanity that characterizes all his work.

Oct 12, 2006 | Rating: B

Cynics may not fall for its melodrama, but Riding Alone is good for everyone else, including children.

Oct 6, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Just to start off, let's call this the little Asian film that thinks it can. Certainly it does, and it almost succeeds (and does succeed on some levels), and it's awful pretty looking along the way, but it lacks a certain something. In this it reminds me of another recent Asian film: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring - both had a lot of potential and some good acting, and some potent (if almost overbearing, at times) imagery, but lacked the execution to get the film where it needed to be, it just sort of flounders somewhere in the middle. Granted, to be fair, I liked Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles a lot better - it had far more redeeming factors; for example, the wonderful performance of Ken Takakura really anchors the film and gives you a reason to keep on. As well, the film picks up significantly once the plot of Yang Yang and his father comes into play. If more time had spent on that it would have strengthened the main plot of Takata and his dying son. Anyway, this is a good film, it's definitely worth watching, but it definitely wasn't all that it could have been due to some sloppy storytelling.

Christopher Mercer
Christopher Mercer

Super Reviewer


I'm still trying to figure out, WHY. Why what you ask, why I continue to watch this bloody movie, I mean theres no blood in the movie, just an expression, Guy wandering around trying to do good for his dying son, but tends to piss people off

Bruce Bruce
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer



Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]In "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles", Takata(Ken Takakura) has been estranged from his son, Ken-ichi, for the past ten years and is living in a remote fishing village. When he gets a call from his daughter-in-law, Rie(Shinobu Terajima), that his son is in the hospital, Takata ventures to Tokyo to see him but he refuses to see his father. Not entirely deterred, Rie gives Takata a tape of some footage that his son shot for a documentary on Chinese mask opera but could not get a key performance because the singer was ill. When Ken-ichi is diagnosed as having terminal liver cancer, Takata resolves to go back to the same Chinese village to videotape the performance his son missed. But this is complicated by the singer being in jail for three years for assault...[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Directed by Zhang Yimou, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" is a beautiful, emotionally powerful movie with genuine emotions that carefully demolishes the notion of stoic masculinity. The message of the movie is to not keep one's head in the sand. It is about how a person affects the world by simply being a part of it. In short, this is the kind of movie that Steven Spielberg bungles with alarming regularity. [/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]And there is a political subtext if you are looking for it...[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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