The Crossing ★★★★ – Odyssey: A Chinese Cinema Season 2023

The Crossing ★★★★ – Odyssey: A Chinese Cinema Season 2023

Bai Xue makes their presence felt with the raw and visually striking feature debut, The Crossing shows us how easy it is for disadvantaged teens to get coaxed into a world they should never see. A great albeit stress-inducing film.

Studying in Hong Kong but living in Shenzhen (the port city of Mainland China), Peipei has spent 16 years of her life travelling between these two cities. To realise the dream of seeing snow in Japan with her bestie, Peipei joins a smuggling gang and uses her student identity to smuggle iPhones from Hong Kong to Mainland. Her family life and friendships begin to fall apart. The daily life of Peipei starts to get out of control.

For a directorial debut, Bai Xue is very confident in allowing her creativity to come to the fore, be it with some choices as Peipei encounters a new danger or how she and cinematographer Piao Songri play with the framing of Peipei’s journeys in each city. In Shenzhen, the camera is still, almost contemplative, as we watch our protagonist go about her almost dull life. She sees no prospects for herself in Shenzhen, and the allure of the bright, energetic world of Hong Kong becomes too much temptation for her as she takes that foolish foot into crime.

Yet, when we reach Hong Kong, the stillness is switched up for a handheld composition as Peipei encounters the nerve-racking world of criminality in Hong Kong. While in Anatasia Tsang’s A Light Never Goes Out, when we see the dark fluorescent neon lights of the city, we are mesmerised, here in The Crossing, Bai has managed to make it all feel dirty, a place we immediately know we should not be in, full of danger and unwieldiness.

This danger is amplified terrifically well in The Crossing, in a scene where Peipei requires one of the phones she is carrying to be fixed. So desperate are people for the iPhone that instead of offering a price to fix the phone, they offer to buy it from her. Surrounded by a dozen men huddled around a petite teenager and following her up and down alleys, we dread what might happen next. Peipei has dug herself too far into a hole and doesn’t seem willing to get out of it.

That is the film’s strength; the danger and the stakes of what Peipei is doing never grow to an unbearable moment. Instead, it is seeing a young girl lose herself in what she is doing. So lost is Peipei that most other things become insignificant to her. We see less and less of her family and more of the dark rabbit hole she has pulled herself into. While she is putting up a front around the gang she has fallen into, we can clearly see the unease seep through her pores.

However, there are the occasional faults with The Crossing; it is a film that needs to remain focused on Peipei’s inevitable collapse and for reality to come crashing back at her. So, when the film deviates from that main plot to some underwritten subplots, we lose the tension that has been expertly built up. With that said, there is so much to enjoy out of the film that you bypass it. From the fantastic direction from Bai Xue to Huang Yao’s stunning performance, The Crossing becomes a strong and raw coming-of-age story.


For more information on Odyssey: A Chinese Cinema Season click here

For other films reviewed from the Season, please see below!

Finding Bliss

A Light Never Goes Out

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