Two women star in this generation-spanning drama: first time actress Gong Zhe is Xiao Ma, a young student looking for a cheap room in Beijing. And veteran actress Jin Yaqin is “Granny”: a 90-something owner of a traditional style courtyard, who rents Ma a room.
The story unfolds by seasons: Ma arrives in the depths of winter. She can only rent a frigid, dirty, tiny hut in the middle of Granny’s traditional-style but shabby and small courtyard home. Adversaries from the start, Granny considers Ma to be an annoyance and a source of extra money. We first sympathize with Ma, who seems bullied by the older woman’s greed. But, as the weather thaws and spring approaches, so does their relationship, which encompasses incidents both gently humorous (Granny has to pretend to be a model oldster for Ma’s class video project), quietly intimate, and fiercely emotional (Ma is brutal when an huge extra charge appears on their joint phone bill that neither admits to).
Gong Zhe gives a taciturn, physical performance grounding the film. But the movie belongs to Jin Yaqin, whose endlessly expressive and beautiful, elegantly wrinkled face contains all the wisdom, feeling, and loneliness that her character is bursting to share with a world that seems too quick to have rejected her.
Director Ma, whose first film, Gone Is The One Who Held Me Dearest In The World, was premiered at FEFJ 2004, continues in her second her focus on female relationships. Using the most economical of means, she manages to suggest, with one courtyard and two people, a vast world of change. The film catches a sense of rapidly disappearing tradition’s incompatibility with a youthful present almost unable to connect with it. But with warmth and a delicately balanced wisdom, You And Me brings the two together, poised on a temporary island sparkling with life, suspended between snow-blanketed cold and warm tears of regret.