Despite being one of the most populous, powerful and rich countries in the world, there’s a huge problem with youth poverty in China. Indeed, the Communist Party has spent billions building new cities and trying to encourage rural workers into urban areas. This had resulted in millions of young people being voluntarily displaced in order to find jobs. Almost Heaven focuses on Ying Ling, a 17-year old who is just starting out on the road to adult life.
Ying has left her home and moved across the country to work in one of China’s largest funeral homes. As she begins her training to become a mortician, she realises being scared of ghosts is probably not the best phobia for her new profession. Along with her new friend, fellow mortician and prospective love, she embarks on her new path. Her anxiety about her future mixed with the excitement of becoming an adult.
Almost Heaven is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a portrait of a new China. Whilst Ying’s tale may be universal, the stark choices for those in her position are to move hundreds of miles away from their family or starve. Carol Salter’s film is sad in many ways, and Ying’s is clearly anxious about the position she finds herself in, but it’s also one of hope. Hope for a new generation born into relative independence and self-determination.