"Lost and Love" expounds on China's child-trafficking phenomenon — 20,000 cases each year by U.S. State Department estimates, a symptom of the country's one-child policy that aims to reduce overpopulation.
Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau plays Lei Zekuan. Since his son's disappearance 14 years earlier, he has dropped everything to look for him like some post-apocalyptic traveler, crossing the country by motorcycle. Lei becomes a paternal figure to mechanic Zeng Shuai (Jing Boran), who was abducted as a child and yearns to reunite with his family. The surrogates proceed to play out well-worn father-son tropes as if the two had actual blood ties.
Although the use of social media to crowdsource for clues is one of the more eloquent depictions of Internet culture on celluloid, by ambitiously aiming to encompass the full scope and complexity of the social pandemic, "Lost and Love" winds up being all over the map.
Writer-director Peng Sanyuan juxtaposes Lei's and Zeng's parallel searches with a present-day kidnapping in progress, but the clumsy attempt at interconnected stories serves only to confuse. It does not help that Peng draws melodrama mostly from a soap-opera playbook, with Lei and Zeng taking turns at losing their tempers and causing a scene just about everywhere they go. Even with cultural gaps taken into account, the film doesn't convince.
"Lost and Love."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles; AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park; AMC Puente Hills 20, City of Industry.