Film Review: I Am Not Madame Bovary

It’s almost impossible for anyone outside of East Asian to truly understand the power of stardom in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and China. To the outsider, it can be truly baffling and scary. Hollywood have been slow to catch on, but is beginning to capitalise in these markets. Take Fan Bingbing, she’s such a huge superstar in China that they added her into the Mainland version of Iron Man 3. She stars in Xiaogang Feng’s latest film, I Am Not Madame Bovary.

Li Xuelian (Fan) and her husband ‘fake’ a divorce in order to keep their apartment. However, when he decides to marry someone else she vows to get revenge. She petitions the local court, but loses. When Li Xuelian brands her ‘Pan Jinlian’ (bad/immoral woman), Li Xuelian’s resolve deepens. She decides to take her case all the way to the top. The NCP conference in Beijing. In a fight that will last for over a decade.

I Am Not Madame Bovary, on the face of it, is a story of determination. However, there’s more than meets the eye to Li Xuelian’s tale. Beneath, lies a critique of Chinese bureaucracy. Of toadying and faceless officials. All the rural scenes are seen through a circle, which gives the impression that we’re covertly observing her struggle. It’s remarkably effective most of the time and adds a fresh dimension to the piece. I Am Not Madame Bovary is a drama of determination and resilience, featuring a strong central performance from Fan and a great supporting cast.

I Am Not Madame Bovary is in cinemas from Friday.

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