Lost, Found was created with both the Chinese and the South Korean markets in mind, in much the same way as 20, Once Again (FEFF 2015), the Chinese remake of the Korean film Miss Granny (FEFF 2014). Lost, Found and its Korean equivalent Missing basically share the same plotline, but the cultural reference points and the personalities of the main characters differ.
The opening sequence of Lost, Found introduces, with no holds barred, the crux of the story: it is night-time and a woman is running desperately through a tunnel, searching through the trash cans along the way for a message. Her daughter, a two-year-old girl, has been kidnapped. Li Jie is a lawyer, and she is going through a divorce from her husband, a doctor. She is ambitious, a workaholic, somewhat cynical in her work outlook: she is defending a man who has been unfaithful to his wife and attempting to get custody of his son, something she does without considering in the least the wife’s feelings. She has a civil relationship with her former husband, but not with her mother-in-law who wants to be granted custody of her grandaughter, who lives with Li Jie and her babysitter Sun Fang.
Li Jie is initially convinced that the kidnapping has been organised by the child’s grandmother, but after having seen her building’s CCTV footage, she realises that the babysitter is the guilty party. She begins her own investigation into the matter, at first without informing the police, as she fears she may in some way be held to be complicit in the kidnapping. Then she realises that this thing is bigger than she can handle, so she tells both her husband and the police. The film gradually reveals the dynamics of the kidnapping, the motives and Sun Fang’s personal life; we learn that the two women had met briefly before Sun Fang started working for the lawyer, when she was thrown out of a hospital bed she could no longer afford to make room for Li Jie’s daughter, who had had a slight accident. The superficiality and utilitarianism of human relations in the competitive social and economic context that is China today is the main theme of the film: despite living with her and entrusting her daughter to her, Li Jie knew absolutely nothing about her babysitter.
Through flashbacks, twists and dramatic revelations, the film tells not only the story of Sun Fang but also the cathartic path Li Jie’s life takes; this painful story helps her discover a more human side, she finally identifies with her role as a mother and learns about female solidarity. Sun Fang and Li Jie belong to different social classes and represent the economic and social gap between rich and poor that is rife in contemporary China, but motherhood unites them in a tragic destiny. In contrast to the intensity of the female characters, the male characters in the film are inconsistent, weak or violent, with the exception of Sun Fang’s lover, a young bachelor with a no-nonsense sensitivity. Director Lue Yue – one of China’s most renowned cinematographers (although he did not oversee the photography for this film himself) – skillfully avoids sending the film down the road of high melodrama, imbuing it with just enough drama and the rhythm of a thriller, helped by the masterful performances of Yao Cheng – a versatile actress so far known mainly for her comic roles – in the role of Li Jie, and Ma Yili as Sun Fang. The film was produced for Huayi Brothers by Feng Xiaogang, with whom Lue Yue has a longstanding working relationship, having been the director of photography on many of his most important films. The film earned a total of 285 million CNY at the box office, a huge commercial success for a film of this genre.