A Writer’s Odyssey is intriguing and a tad exasperating. This intricately woven crime fantasy explores power and loss … and making it as a storyteller. It crams a lot into its two-hour plus running time and requires concentration to follow.
Guan Ning (Lei Jiayin) is heartbroken and isolated. He used to be a happily married man with a beautiful young daughter named Tangerine before a criminal organisation “stole” his child. As a result, his life disintegrated. He divorced and let himself go. He has frequent nightmarish visions involving his daughter and a mysterious city, known as the City of Clouds, ruled with an iron-fist by a god-like entity known as Lord Redmane. He is determined to find his daughter and wreak vengeance on those who snatched her. But Guan Ning also has a superpower. He is able to throw stones with remarkable accuracy.
A second thread involves a man named Kongwen, who is seeking revenge for the murder of his sister at the hands of a devilish monk. Li Mu is the self-centred, megalomaniacal head of a vast IT empire – the Aladdin Group. Li Mu links his declining health to a nerdish writer, Kongwen Lu (Dong Zijian). Whatever the latter pens appears to adversely impact the titan. He naturally wants the writer eliminated before he himself dies from what the man is progressively writing and sharing on social media. Time is of the essence, so Li Mu’s Chief Information Officer, Tu Ling (Yang Mi) – who has her own tale of woe, being one of abandonment by her parents – engages Guan Ning to do the job under a pretence of finding his long-lost daughter.
If fantasy is your bent, there is quite a deal of sophistication in that component of the storyline. The CGI is impressive … and there’s no shortage of it. I was keen on simply following the exploits of the crestfallen father and the writer. The story arc waxes and wanes between the various threads, which left me somewhat frustrated. I was just getting absorbed in one and, in a flash, we jump elsewhere.
Still, there are twists aplenty and clever ones at that. The movie is also violent at times. The creativity of the screenwriters – who have adapted the novel Assassinate a Novelist – is on show. Pleasingly, it all comes together and I thought Lei Jiayin stood out in his portrayal of the forlorn father. And an Aussie was responsible for the score. Jed Kurzel, who composed the music for the haunting drama The Nightingale, is given quite some scope here.
A Writer’s Odyssey, directed by Yang Lu, is complex and – notwithstanding a few reservations – impressive overall.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.