I had the good fortune to first see Xuan Liu's feature directorial debut Bloom when I served as a juror at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival where the expressionistic, thoughtful film captured the narrative feature prize. So, it was certainly exciting for me to hear from Liu that the film had been picked up by indie distributor Gravitas Ventures and was headed toward a U.S. and Canadian release.
The Beijing-born Liu, a graduate of my home state's Indiana University and New York University, has crafted a mesmerizing film inspired by Bergman's Wild Strawberries yet also a deeply personal, intimate film borne out of his own memories and manifesting as a story that explores love and loss in ways that resonate both emotionally and intellectually.
Bloom also picked up the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature along with four other awards at the Richmond International Film Festival and one can't watch the film without thinking that Liu's future in filmmaking is a promising one.
From the film's opening moments where we meet Mu Ke (Ding Xihe), a writer reflecting upon his life's losses, Bloom is an absolutely beautiful film with lensing by Joey Wang that honors the spectrum of life without ever becoming maudlin or emotionally manipulative. The same is true for the wonderfully complementary original score by Dong Liu.
Much of Bloom centers around two specific periods in Ke's life, childhood and his young adult years, representing both the love and the loss that define Liu's storytelling here. Rather than the usual Americanized, often Hallmark-style storytelling, we're so used to here in the U.S., Bloom's love story is as much an exploration of the mind of love as it is the heart of love. Our growth is rooted in memories, Bloom seems to be saying as we watch the adult Mu Ke process through his childhood experiences with Xi Xi (Xiaoran Tang) and an adult love with Songyu (Liting Jin) that unfolds with such simplicity and wonder it's aching to know that it's simply not quite right.
It had been several months since I'd first watched Bloom. While I likely could have easily written the review based upon my own memories of the film, the very idea of this made me chuckle and I knew that I needed to watch it once again so that my memories would be renewed and fresh.
Yet, there I was again falling in love with the film all over once again.
Bloom features an absolutely lovely ensemble cast, Ding Xihe poignantly capturing the journey of Mu Ke and young Jiang Xu shining as little Mu Ke. Both Liting Jin and Xiaoran Tang are similarly inspired in their performances.
Bloom is now available for viewing through all major streaming platforms.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic