Written and directed by Xue Xiao Lu, this modest effort is by no means small in ambition, having the likes of Jay Chou and Kwai Lun Mei lend their vocals to separate title tracks (with Kwai also starring in the film), as well as being lensed by the renowned Christopher Doyle.
Jet Li stars as Wang, a middle aged technician at Qingdao's Ocean World who discovers that his liver cancer is at its 4th stage, and a medical death sentence has been passed, giving him 3 to 4 months to live.
The marketing for this film went into overdrive with its touting of this being action star Jet Li's first dramatic role.
Unless you count his appearance in a non combative role in The Founding of a Republic and the various attempts to balance his action status with more dramatic acting chops such as Danny the Dog/Unleashed, then Ocean Heaven will be that maiden effort.
Understated and bittersweet, Ocean Heaven tells the tale of parental love which never wavers -- even in the face of disability, societal difficulty, or death.
Viewers may note with some interest Jet Li in the starring role. He disappears so completely into Sam Wong that I completely forgot Jet Li, famed action star.
I suppose Jet Li's foray into a purely dramatic role is quite successful, although personally I can't wait to see him kick serious ass in The Expendables with an ensemble cast of action heroes where he belongs.
But of course one can't go on forever in such a role.
You'll for once feel as exasperated as Li since this time he cannot kung-fu kick his way out of challenges and troubles, and have to rely on perseverance and love to educate his son.
You'll feel his pain, and share his pessimism and slim hopes that he'll be able to impart, delegate and leave behind enough for his son not only material wealth, but emotional stability as well, which comes in the form of a sea turtle motif, known for its longevity, Wen Zhang too has this child like quality in his portrayal of autism which endears, and is able to bring out the confusion, fear and anger when he is not understood by others.
Wang, with his limited, time, wants to train Da Fu in performing simple tasks in looking after himself, from cooking to taking the public bus, and through many of these scenes, Xue has allowed for an awareness of autism to ring through without resorting to overreliance on melodrama to do so.