Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live and a Time to Die) Photos

Movie Info

One of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's best-known films, this semi-autobiographical drama follows the childhood and teenage years of a young man named Ah-ha, as he comes of age in the Taiwan countryside. Though born on the Chinese mainland, Ah-ha moves to Taiwan at a very early age when his father accepts a government position upon the island. His family soon becomes permanent residents of the island, thanks a combination of historical circumstance -- the Communist takeover of the mainland -- and his father's increasingly poor health. The family endures, despite serious financial difficulties that lead several of his older siblings to compromise their dreams for the sake of the common good, and cause increasing tension between the family members. Soon, Ah-ha's father has passed away and his siblings have left home, leaving him responsible for the family's well-being while dealing with his own personal struggles. This deliberate, intimately detailed drama utilizes a straightforward, unadorned style to present the family's trials and tribulations, which also reflect the shifts in Taiwanese society during the time of the director's youth. One of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's biggest successes in his home country, the film also received worldwide acclaim, winning special recognition at the Berlin Film Festival. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi
Art House & International , Drama
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Critic Reviews for Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live and a Time to Die)

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

[A] delicate, haunted drama, from 1986, in which the director Hou Hsiao-hsien conjures his reminiscences of childhood and adolescence in a remote Taiwan village in the nineteen-forties and fifties.

Full Review… | May 1, 2011
New Yorker
Top Critic

Interesting look at a family's daily life in the Taiwan of 50 years ago.

Full Review… | December 29, 2015
Classic Film and Television

Wonderfully crafted film that depicts childhood in a very simple but relevant manner.

Full Review… | March 1, 2013
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A near-masterpiece.

Full Review… | May 4, 2005
Lessons of Darkness

Moving and memorable, and more accessible than some of the director's other work

August 11, 2004
Nick's Flick Picks

Quote not available.

June 29, 2005

Audience Reviews for Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live and a Time to Die)

(****): [img][/img] A great of coming of age movie. Extremely well-acted and directed.


poetically filmed and touching coming of age story based on hou's family's experience coming from the mainland to taiwan during the war. at first seemingly temporary residents, they soon find themselves trapped by the communist takeover, the children as they grow enduring the deaths of their father, then their mother and eventually their old grandmother, who was always getting lost trying to find her way back to her home village. very moving in the end, marred for me only by the too sentimental music at some points

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


Somewhat difficult to relate to as an American but nonetheless an interesting look at a family displaced from their home territory.

Andy Cramer
Andy Cramer

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