Carry My Heart to the Yellow River – European Independent Film Festival 2020 – Film Review
Falling in love with a film is certainly not a regular occurrence but Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is a 21-minute charming, captivating, compelling but poignant and irrepressible kaleidoscope of a film which will shoot Cupid’s arrow directly into your heart. Carry My Heart to the Yellow River featured within Day 3 of the European Independent Film Festival and it was another one of the 10 films, within my previous article, that I have selected as recommended viewing.
Carry My Heart to the Yellow River will resurrect any latent feelings of wanderlust within its audience. Adopting the style of a travel documentary, Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is a traveller’s dream as it follows the protagonist Jing Yi on a cycle ride across the Yellow River area. China’s yellow river is approximately 5,464km in length and whilst an elderly man en route mentioned that it is a difficult route, the enormity of the challenge is only realised by Jing Yi, and the audience, when viewing the distance on a map.
However, Carry My Heart to the Yellow River will enthral the audience with its quick cuts of beautiful, panoramic shots with breath-taking views across fields, vibrant colours within monasteries and other sight-seeing attractions. There is minimal dialogue employed within the film, but it is expressive, and so the joy encountered by Jing Yi whilst viewing the light streaming through a remote field whilst capturing a photograph is delightful and many a holidaymaker and traveller will identify with such emotions.
Carry My Heart to the Yellow River perfectly captures that balance in tone between depicting a charming travel film and being intercut with moments of realism. You may ask why Jing Yi is undertaking such a seemingly arduous route and an explanation is provided through a series of flashbacks interspersed within the present scenes. Director Alexis van Hurkman subscribes to that theory of ‘show, don’t tell’ and cleverly crafts a visual tale of loyalty and poignancy. With sharp editing and a heart-wrenching montage it is revealed that Jing Yi has replaced her friend Yu Xuan, on the cycle tour, who had been hospitalised.
Despite its tear-jerking context, Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is a feel-good film overall and as the audience we vicariously re-live every emotion felt by Jing Yi through her on tour trials and tribulations. We can literally hear when her stomach growls as food is mentioned, or we hear her frustration at having to awaken early to complete sections of the route. Plus, we can all resonate with that desire to ensure that we photograph every moment experienced to enshrine those travel memories and to share them with loved ones left behind. The direction by Hurkman in Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is truly remarkable to watch.
Throughout Carry My Heart to the Yellow River it is virtually impossible not to be transfixed by the mesmerising cinematography with those striking wide-angle shots where Jing Yi sits alone in a tranquil doorway or enters the majestic grounds of a monastery. Such moments are beautifully captured by Hurkman, in that quasi-documentary style, and convey that spirit of travel poetically. Indeed, the composition of many scenes resembles paintings and are stunning to sit back and admire.
Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is a mature reflection of the passage of time in a coming of age tale. The film gracefully transitions between the nirvana of travel and a more grounded hospitalisation experience exploring the juxtaposition in the situations of the two friends. Carry My Heart to the Yellow River elevates itself above the standard film within the ‘finding yourself through travel’ coming of age genre by not treating these subject matters in a blunt fashion. Whilst there is some wisdom imparted from the elder generation to Jing Yi who is told, ‘life is a spiritual quest, everyone’s journey is different’ these sparse moments of dialogue feel integral to the film rather than stilted.
Carry My Heart to the Yellow River is such a heartfelt film that I could re-watch on many occasions and I would still be mesmerised each time by its beauty, tranquility and the stunning landscapes contained within the film. It is a film for all the ages and one that many could resonate with. I certainly hope that it will receive a general release so that other audiences can admire the beauty of its story and cinematography.