What would happen if you suddenly found yourself in a different life?
Sometimes watching a foreign film is as good as going on a mini-vacation. You get exposed to a different culture, another angle of perspective, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich humanity that isn’t your own. The Chinese movie, Beautiful Accident gives you this, as well as serving as a metaphor for the transformative experience into another mind and body that art can offer.
I caught this on a plane flying from Hawaii to Thailand when I got bored with the English movies available on the back of the seat in front of me. So, if you happen to be on a long flight in Asia, you could find this film in the movie menu.
I like suspense so I’m not going to do a spoiler. I’ll just give the gist of the content, not what happens beyond the boldest outlines. But let me be more vague in terms of plot for people like me who really, really like to be surprised.
The core of the movie is what it is like to find oneself in completely different circumstances, how experience alters your perspective in ways persuasive arguments and evidence can’t, how this transforms you, and how you become attached to your new situation. It tackles the mutability of identity, which does not exist independent of an inescapable, external landscape. What would happen if you suddenly found yourself in an entirely different life?
The film brings out the best of contemporary Chinese culture, and part of my enjoyment of it stems from living in China for nearly 5 years. The characters and situations are believable and evocative of life, on the ground, in China.
And here’s a very rudimentary outline. A tough, ambitious young lawyer has a fatal car accident and ends up in an after life bureaucratic office where they try to sort out the mishap (this bit of comic, magical realism actually works). Here death was due to the equivalent of a filing error, and so she has to go back for a spell in another life until it’s sorted out and she can return to her normal life. This is just the pretext to cast her into another existence. The rest of the film is about her coping with her new life.
The film is both humbling and ennobling for the heroine, and yes, there will be tears among many movie watchers as the reminders of what matters in life and what it means to be human tenderize the heart. I didn’t want the movie to end so watched a couple more Chinese movies to try to continue the experience, but there weren’t as good.
On a personal level, since I hit hyperspace on my life and flew to a small city in the middle of China, where I knew no one, to teach English to kids, I know what it’s like to find oneself in a new life in China. In my case the film resonates with my lived experience. And as with the movie, when the protagonist leaves the bubble of the new life and can never really return to it, there’s a profound sense of loss and sadness. I’ve also relocated in several times in the last few years, so am constantly reminded how circumstances can completely change ones life. Further, I’m doing some art that explores how ones mid can be cast into different perceptual existences.
The film is relatively true to my experience of living in China, so, if you want to see China but can’t physically travel there, take a short vacation via film.
The subtitles were done well, and it’s also good if you are studying Mandarin Chinese.