The River (He liu) (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

The River (He liu) (1997)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Xiao-Kang, a young man who lives a dismal life with his parents in their small Taipei apartment, develops a terrible pain in his neck which no doctor, nor cure can seem to relieve. His mother is having an affair with a man who pirates pornographic videotapes, while his father is pursuing a solitary quest for pleasure in the city's gay bathhouses. Somehow, Xiao-Kang's pain seems to reflect the problems of each of his parents, and the solutions to each seem connected also, in a way that is not rationally explicable.


Kang-sheng Lee
as Xiao-Kang
Tien Miao
as Father
Ann Hui
as Director
Lu Chiao-Lin
as Mother's Lover
Kuei-Mei Yang
as Girl in Hotel
Ann Huei
as Film Director
Chao-jung Chen
as Young Man at Sauna
Kang-sheng Lee
as Xiao-kang
Tien Miao
as Father
Chang Long
as Mother's Lover
View All

Critic Reviews for The River (He liu)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (4)

The River is difficult and unpleasant at times, but as a somber metaphor for contaminated lives, it's masterful.

August 6, 2002
Top Critic

Tsai is so adept at pacing and mood, and so good at capturing a sense of yearning, that his film draws us in despite its unusually long takes and sparse cutting.

October 28, 2001 | Full Review…

The result is a stunning surreal film that remains unexplored in all the mysteries it holds, just like the river that flows in the city.

February 26, 2003 | Rating: A | Full Review…

A brilliant, multi-layered work by a true artist of the cinema.

November 11, 2001 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Too murky and long to swim in.

October 28, 2001 | Rating: 2.5/4

a painfully incisive portrait of the contemporary human condition

October 22, 2001

Audience Reviews for The River (He liu)


In his third film, Tsai moves his focus to the nuclear family and creates his most depressing work to date - perhaps a bit too depressing for its own sake -, as it follows a group of characters whose murky lives flow like a river through isolation and lack of communication in modern Taipei.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

some don't like tsai's pacing but i have found him mesmerizing and this is certainly no exception. and while many considered it bleak, i saw it more as a black comedy. i'm watching tsai's films in order which isn't strictly necessary i guess but i do believe there is an overarching narrative and this is an important piece of the puzzle. to be continued...

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

A very hard film to watch while at the same time riveting, here is a somber look at the modern family, where no one shares the same interests, everyone lives separate lives except for the occasional meal or two. The roof is leaking and getting worse and no one knows why ... a disturbing work, and for adults only.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

The River (He liu) Quotes

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