Times Staff Writer

Of the films shown so far in the long-running Chinese series at the Grande 4-Plex (in the Sheraton Grande downtown), "Deep at Heart" is perhaps the least impressive, although it is not entirely without merit.

As the credits unroll, images of the flames of war alternate with two children picking flowers in a country field. Just as the Korean War ends, a dying husband and wife ("martyrs to U.S. aggression") extract a promise from an attractive young medical officer (Liu Xioaqing) to look after their two small children. Liu has only to visit the little boy (Xu Daihai) and girl (Li Tong) in a state nursery to lose her heart to them--especially when they take her to be their actual mother.

"Deep at Heart" would be a much better film had it been directed by Chang Yan (who also co-wrote it with Li Lingxiu) at a lower pitch (and a faster clip). Chang whips up such a patriotic frenzy over the Korean War and the sacrifices it exacted from the Chinese people that the film becomes more political than it needs and probably even intends to be. In any event, Chang is a shameless tear-jerker.

At its core, however, there's some real substance to "Deep at Heart" in Liu's determination to raise the two orphans as her own and in how service in the war affects her perceptions and values. Much to her surprise, her fiance is so chagrined at her plan, jealous of the love she feels for the youngsters and eager to have children of his own that she has no recourse but to break off their engagement.

Where "Deep at Heart" is strongest is in its simple assertion of the importance and the rewards of unselfishness, as represented by Liu--and in her persuasive performance as a young woman in the process of maturing. Undeniably, "Deep at Heart" (Times-rated Mature) has a worthwhile message for those of us who live in a society in which self-absorption has reached epidemic proportions.


A World Entertainment release of a Changchun Film Studio production. Director Chang Yan. Screenplay Chang, Li Lingxiu. Camera Gao Hongbao. With Liu Xioaqing, Wang Zhihua, Li Tong, Xu Daihai, Chao Zhuyin, Xia Zongxu. In Mandarin, with Chinese and English subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Times-rated: Mature.

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