The Children of Huang Shi (2008)

 

 

 

Director:    

Starring:     Jonathan Rhys Meyers (George Hogg), Radha Mitchell (Lee Pearson), Yun-Fat Chow (Jack), Michelle Yeoh (Mrs. Wang), Guang Li (Shi-Kai), Lin Ji (Horse Rider), Matthew Walker (Andy Fisher), Anastasia Kolpakova (Duschka), Ping Su (Eddie Wei), Imai Hideaki (Japanese Officer), Seiichiro Hashimoto (Urbane Japanese Officer), Shinichi Takashima (Hostile Kempetai Officer), Xing Mang (Young Communist), Ruixiang Zhu (Japanese Officer II), Yuelong Fang (Rou Ding)..

George Hogg led 60 orphans across China to save them from conscription during the Second Sino-Japanese War

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"In the 1930's China was torn by civil war.  The Japanese invaded and soon occupied much of the country.  They left untouched the center of Shanghai, a European enclave of luxury and decadence.  In 1937 Japan began a bloody assault on Nanjing, the capital city a few hours west of Shanghai.  War reporters flocked to Shanghai, hoping to get past the Japanese army and find a way into Nanjing  One of the reporters was George Hogg, a young inexperienced Englishman.  This story is based on his life."

YMCA, Shanghai.  December 1937.  White guys are boxing in the gymnasium.  One of the guys, Andy, says he's going to get married, if he gets back from Nanjing on time.  He says he drives for the Red Cross. 

At a fancy night club a man named Roger Appsley tells a man named Barnes that Nanjing is closed to the press.  George Hogg comes over to the table and introduces Andy Fisher to Barnes.  He says Fisher is a terrific fellow here to see his girl.  George introduces himself to Roger.  Barnes says about Roger:  "An ungrateful shit from the British embassy."  They laugh.  Roger says he's already met Mr. Fisher.  Andy's girl comes over to the table and grabs Andy for a dance.  Roger says that if Andy is headed to Nanjing, he's headed straight for hell. 

Outside on the streets, George tells Barnes that he has a deal with Andy.  They will drive his Red Cross ambulance to get them into Nanjing.  He says:  "Barnes, we've got a scoop."  George will go as Andy Fisher and Barnes will go as David Barcley.  They are Red Cross personnel bringing medical supplies to Nanjing.  Andy will stay in Shanghai and get married, while they get famous in Nanjing. 

The guys in the ambulance run into a road check.  George is worried about Eddie Wei in the back of the truck.  He's the photographer from New Delhi.  Everyone gets through the check point.

George says the Japanese haven't declared war on China.  Barnes says that's because if they are not at war then they don't have to treat captured Chinese soldiers as prisoners of war.  Barnes adds that the next Great War has already started here.  The rest of the world just doesn't know this yet.

Now the truck is stopped at a Japanese check point.  The Japanese just start throwing stuff off the back of the truck.  George tries to explain to the officer that  a lot of these items are sterilized medical supplies and opening the contents un-sterilizes them.  So the lieutenant lets the truck go through. 

Nanjing.  George and Eddie jump out of the truck.  Barnes says he will be back at 9 p.m. and if they are not here, he's going on ahead without them.  All three men are going their own ways.  George takes pictures of the bombed out buildings and the dead Chinese civilians laying in the streets.  He goes into a ruined building and goes to the second floor for a good view.  He watches as Japanese troops push men and women into a park.  They then open fire on the civilians.  George is terrorized by what he sees.  The Japanese throw the bodies into one big pile and then set the pile on fire. 

The Japanese take George into their headquarters.  He explains that he was three months in Japan and enjoyed Tokyo very much.  He met a lot of nice people there.  The officer is pleased with Mr. Hogg, that is, until he is handed copies of the developed photos.  The Japanese take George outside and make him kneel down.  They act as though they are going to chop George's head off.  Just as the officer is going to bring the sword down on George's head, Chinese soldiers open up on the Japanese and kill them.  The Chinese grab George up and take him to their headquarters.  The fellow who saved him says he knows George is a journalist because only a journalist would come to Nanjing armed only with a sports coat.  The man says his name is Hansheng Chen, but George can call him Jack. 

The Chinese quickly move out of their temporary headquarters because they are going to blow it up.  It's not long before a huge explosion takes the building down.  As they walk, George sees Barnes being slapped around by a Japanese officer.  Then he sees Eddie with Barnes,.  Then both men are shot in the head by the officer.  George lets out a moan giving their position away.  The Japanese open fire on them.  Hansheng and George have to jump into the river to get away from the enemy soldiers. 

George pulls Hansheng out of the water and then collapses.  He wakes up in a Red Cross hospital.  A pretty nurse looks after him.  She says he was shot.  George says he didn't even feel it.  She says George has lost a lot of blood to the Yangtze River, but she has decided that he will live.

Hansheng comes to see George.  George says he thinks Jack is a communist and Hansheng says he is a communist.   

Jack asks Miss Pearson what is he going to do with a six-foot Oxford graduate who can't speak a word of Chinese.  She says that's Jack's problem. 

Jack says he travels around to organize the resistance against the Japanese.  George wants to go with Hansheng.  The Chinese organizer says there is a place up in northwest China called Huang Shi.  He can rest there and improve his Chinese before he goes onto the front.  He says George will take the train as far as Baoji.  They are interrupted by the troops of General Chiang Kai-shek.  Jack jumps under the jeep and tells George to join him.  He explains to George that the Nationalist troops are sometimes friendly with the communists and sometimes not. 

Japanese planes start bombing and strafing the train and the train station.  Jack and George help get the troops out of the box cars by releasing the outside locks. 

George reaches Huang Shi.  The place looks abandoned.  He goes to a school and shouts hello many times.  A young fellow finally comes out.  He can speak English.  His name is Liu Shi Kai.  He has a bad attitude and George doesn't much care for him. 

He looks around and the female cook shows him that she has only one cooking pot and the rice is filled with worms.  George asks where have all the adults gone?  The cook just says they're all gone. 

At night the boys take George out and give him a good beating with sticks.  The nurse arrives and stops the boys from continuing the beating.  George remembers that she is the nurse that helped him.  She says she's Lee Pearson and it was her idea to send him here. 

At breakfast George sees Liu Shi Kai picking on some of the small kinds and comments to Lee:  "He's a very nasty bit of work, that one."  Lee says the boy saw his father beheaded, his mother raped and beheaded and his sister raped and beheaded.  George says that's enough.  He was at Nanjing.  George tells her that he is not staying here:  "I didn't come halfway round the world to play nanny to a bunch of savages."  She says that this is not a school, but an orphanage and each boy has a terrible tale to tell about the war.  So, if George wants to write about the war, he can start here asking the boys to tell their stories.  

Lee asks George:  why China?  Because everybody is watching and waiting for the next war. He says his family is famous for being pacifists.  But after seeing Nanjing, he thinks there are some times that people have to fight.

Lee has to run a number of medical stations in the area.  As she gets on her horse to leave, she tells George that he has to stay here and run the orphanage.  He has to stay because he's the only adult there, except for the cook and she has her hands full already. 

George starts walking away from the school, but he keeps looking back at it, feeling guilty for leaving.  He returns. 

George starts making repairs to the place, but Liu Shi Kai thinks he runs the place and has his boys undo anything that George does.  The boys keep a close eye on George. 

George gets a round of applause when he fixes up the power generator and the place has electricity again.  He even puts up a basket ball court of sorts. 

A boy named Ching comes in to see George.  The boy has a book on how to learn English, but can't pronounce the words correctly. George starts teaching the boy English.   

George and Ching take a ride into town to do business with merchant Wang.  The merchant turns out to be an attractive woman.  George asks her to give him seeds.  He and his boys will grow the crops and then merchant Wang can take a portion of those crops.  Wang decides to do business with George and gives him a lot of seed.  Luckily they have a donkey to carry the heavy load. 

George stars hoeing the ground.  A young boy named Yu-lin comes around and tells him that no seed will grow because George is doing it wrong.  They have to hold a religious ceremony to ask for a good harvest. 

It doesn't take long before they have growing a strong patch of sunflowers and one of cabbage.

Lee returns to the school.  She sees Ching teaching the boys English using a black board.  Suddenly, the lights go out. George runs over to the generator and finds Liu Shi Kai busting the generator up with a sledge hammer.  The boy runs away.  George finds a photo of the boy with his family. 

Lee and George talk together.  Lee says she is neither a doctor or a nurse.  She just does what she has to do, including amputations. Lee says she was supposed to have been an army wife in Manila, the Philippines, but she couldn't play bridge.  In China she has found a niche for herself and she feels that she is needed here.  Lee has a radio and turns it on.  She asks George to dance with her.  Some of the boys are awake and listen to the music. 

George works on fixing the generator.  An older boy comes by with the proper wrench and starts helping George.  For this the boy earns the wrath of Liu Shi Kai who threatens him.  The boy just pushes the bully out of his way.  The cook does not like Liu Shi Kai and mocks him by pretending to scratch parts of her body because of the lice coming from the bully.  Later Liu Shi Kai shows up to have the cook get rid of his lice. 

George and Ching move all of Lee's things to a very nice room.  She comes into her old room and gets mad because everything is gone.  She goes in search of George and her things.  She comes into the new room and finds her things. 

Lee waits for George to come back from town.  She tells him never to touch her things again!  He says he thought she would be more comfortable in a nicer setting.  "Well, you thought wrong ", she says.  She gets on her horse and leaves.  He shouts at her that she is being ridiculous. 

She goes to see merchant Wang who gives her some medicines, including morphine and opium.

Merchant Wang goes to visit with George.  She tells him that she is very impressed with the progress he has made with the orphanage itself and the boys.  She gives him a book in English, the diary of Marco Polo on the Silk Road.  Wang says the road was the link between the East and West for more than 2,000 years.  She says about the book:  "May it seal our friendship" and George says:  "Yes."

One day Georges sees a lot of refugees on the road.  He asks where have they come from?  Lingbao.  They have been walking for two days.  George walks along with the refugees.  Suddenly, Japanese airplanes start bombing and strafing the refugee column.  He takes one boy with him and jumps into a ditch.  After the airplanes leave, George finds the mother of the child and his three siblings.  The mother is dead.  So he takes the boys to his orphanage. 

Lingbao is being bombed by Japanese airplanes.  Lee helps take care of the wounded Nationalist soldiers.  She tells Jack that the Nationalists are starving their own army.  Jack says the resistance is letting Japan have Lingbao.  Lee goes with the wounded being moved out.  The critically, perhaps mortally, wounded are staying behind.  Jack says he will stay awhile and plant some bombs around as a welcome to the Japanese soldiers coming in.  A bomb hits near Jack and Lee, heading out on the back of a truck, doesn't know if he is dead or alive. 

Jack walks to the orphanage.  He says Lee just got out in time and avoided the worst.

Jacks sits watching the boys play basketball.  Lee comes from behind him.  They hug each other. 

Lee gets some sleep.  When she awakens George tells her that Jack, has been here for a week and he is sick.  She checks on Jack and tells George the man has malaria. 

Nationalist troops arrive and they say that the Japanese might be headed right to the orphanage.  If so, the troops will get orders to take over this entire area for military use.  George is impatient with the Nationalists and a bit rude.  So they call him a communist and put him in jail.  Wang arrives to get George out of jail.  He thanks her very much.  Wang says George is correct when he says the Nationalists can call him a communist, take the orphanage from him and draft all the boys. 

George tells Lee he wants to take the boys up the Silk Road through the mountains with snow at 10,000 feet.  He will take them beyond Lanzhou to Shandan on the edge of the Gobi desert.  The trip is around 700 miles.  Jack will come with them as far as the Yellow River.  He will go with his communist pals in Yen-an.  He asks if Lee will go with him or with Jack.  He doesn't get an answer so he wanders down to the river to sit on the river bank.  Lee comes along and says that yes, Jack and her were once lovers, but they broke up.  Now they are good friends.  She tells George if she was sane, she ought to stay right here. 

George talks to his boys saying he is very proud of them and very confident they can overcome virtually any problem situation. 

It looks like the guys are going to be lugging most of the school over the mountains. Manager Wang tells George that this is an ambitious project of his.  She also tells him that she has greatly enjoyed doing business with him.  She is sad to see him go.  She leaves to do her part of the bargain she made with the Nationalist leader in order to get Jack out of jail.  She will have sex with the man. 

When they are about to leave, one of the boys hangs himself, for reasons unknown.

The boys leave by night sneaking away from the Nationalists. 

Jack gives his rifle to Liu Shi Kai.  This upsets George, but Jack tells George that the boy is  natural soldier.  Liu Shi Kai keeps guard at night.  George comes over to him on sentry and the boy says the Japanese are here.  He can smell them.  George, Jack and the boy capture two Japanese scouts.  Jack wants to kill them, but George says no. 

Next morning the caravan moves out again.  George notices that Liu Shi Kai is not with them.  He hears two shots behind them and figures it's probably Liu Shi Kai killing the two Japanese soldiers.  George runs back to the ad hoc prison for the two soldiers and finds them both dead.  Liu Shi Kai stuck the photo of his family into one of the soldier's left hand. 

George runs back to the caravan.  He hands the family photo to Liu Shi Kai, but he tears it in half and lets it falls to the ground.  Liu Shi Kai gives a Japanese hat to one of the young boys to wear.  George tells Jack that he wants him to leave the caravan when they reach the Silk Road. 

On the journey, they run into a Japanese patrol.  The officer tells his men to search the caravan.  The Japanese get upset when they find the young boy wearing the Japanese hat.  Liu Shi Kai takes his rifle out of hiding so he can kill the Japanese.  Everyone in the caravan starts yelling at him to put the gun back.  The officer tells everyone to be quiet, but they are too busy yelling to hear him.  He fires off a round from his pistol into the air.  This scares a horse and he backs up hitting Liu Shi Kai and knocking him into a ditch.  The horse keeps backing up and the wagon turns over on the slanted road.  The wagon lands on Liu Shi Kai.

The Japanese officer tells his men to leave these people behind them. 

Liu Shi Kai is hurt badly and George tries to give him some morphine, but it seems that Lee is addicted to morphine now.  She gives him one of the two morphine tablets left.  She tells George that the boy will die during his sleep. 

The caravan pushes through a snow storm.  Lee starts having withdrawal problems.    George is disappointed in her and stays away.  And now Jack is mad at George for ignoring Lee and her pain.  He tells her the suffering Lee saw eventually got to her and she started taking morphine tablets.  He basically is telling George that he lacks empathy for Lee.  Lee doesn't think she deserves a future, says Jack, but George is going to show Lee that she does deserve a future. 

George goes over to her and tells her she's the bravest, most beautiful woman he has ever met.  He slowly kisses her left hand.  She leans over and cuddles with him.  Jack is happy to see the couple together.  He comes over to George and tells him to say good-bye for him when Lee wakes up,  He walks away. 

They reach the valley of the Yellow River.  Just this side of the river is Lanzhou. 

They go down into the town.  There they find Nationalist soldiers patrolling the town. 

They have to go to headquarters to tell their amazing story to the authorities.  It took three months for the journey.  And they plan on marching 200 miles more to Shandan.  The official says the story is almost unbelievable.  He now says he cannot let them walk to Shandan.  No, because he has four Dodge trucks to transport them to Shandan.  George is so pleased and bows before the official and another man. 

Before leaving for Shandan, George and Lee have sex. 

They are greeted on the sands of the desert by local horsemen.  They also pass a camel caravan.  Trying to fix a truck tire, George cuts his hand.  Nearing Shandan, a man on a motorcycle escorts them into town.  He also shows them their new home. 

The boys start working to rebuild their orphanage.  Soon they have electricity and a basketball court. 

One day George faints.  Lee sends the motorcyclist to Lanzhou with an order for some medicine for George who has tetanus. 

Lee holds George as he sleeps.   The boys watch as George sleeps, worrying about him.

By the time, the motorcycle gets back, George is dead.  They are, however, in time for the burial.  And, of course, everyone is very upset over their loss. 

Jack comes back.  He tells Lee he already knows about George.  He asks Lee to leave the boys for they are safe now and she can come help with the wounded soldiers.  Lee tells him although the boys may not need her, she needs them.  She is staying.

She, the cook, Jack and one of the boys George saved sit quietly on a nearby small mountain top by George's grave and headstone.   

 

Good move.  I enjoyed it very much.  The film deals with the brutal and heartless rape and massacre of Nanjing, China by the Japanese.  The English reporter George is lucky to get out of Nanjing alive.  George is wounded and is taken care of by an American nurse named Lee.  She suggests to their mutual Chinese friend Jack to take George to Huang shi where George will be safe.  George goes there and discovers that the nurse wants George to take care of the orphanage there.  George hates the idea and starts walking away from the orphanage.  He starts feeling guilty about leaving, and comes back.  He does a good job at the orphanage, but learns that the Japanese are headed his way.  So now George has to figure how to save his boys.  He, Lee and Jack are soon taking a 700 mile trip to get away from the Japanese and the war, including the Chinese Nationalist troops.   

Jonathan Rhys Meyers (as George Hogg), Radha Mitchell (asLee Pearson) and Yun-Fat Chow (as Jack) were all great. 

 

 

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