Credit: Tribeca Film Festival
by Conor Truax Featured Film

Some Rain Must Fall — Qiu Yang [Tribeca ’24 Review]

June 15, 2024

Writer-director Qiu Yang’s first feature film, Some Rain Must Fall, begins during monsoon season. Cai (Yu Aier) is in the midst of finalizing her divorce from Ding (Wei Yibo), the coming-of-age rebellion of her daughter, Lin (Di Shike), and the illness of her father (Zhu Lizheng). The film opens with, and maintains, a thematically consistent asphyxiating frame. The margins are narrow (4:3), and most scenes either take place at gloam or in the shaded darkness of hallways, stairwells, hospitals, and markets. There is a notably liminal quality to the film, one that reflects the fork of Cai’s midlife.

In the first scene, she fails to get in touch with her husband to confirm that he has finalized the signatures on her divorce petition. Then, she walks into a basketball gymnasium to pick up Ling, only to find out she is absent, having snuck off with a boy. With her back turned to the darkness of the gymnasium, she is hit in the back by a stray basketball. After brusquely being told to throw it back, the reserved Cai — who possesses a flat affect and moves as if a ghost — throws the ball back forcefully, accidentally hitting an elderly woman offscreen. Qiu does not move the camera from Cai, and the effect she’s caused remains extradiegetic, confined to the periphery of her experience. The other woman is hospitalized, and it’s unclear whether she will survive.

While this scene’s dramatic tension is not quite sustained over the remainder of the film’s 90-minute runtime, it serves as a microcosm of the melodramatic cycles that take place over the next three days. With each sequence, Cai navigates her life in a zombified stupor, outwardly dispassionate and apathetic. Then, in moments of critical frustration, she lashes out; whether by throwing plates or by self-harming. Often, these scenes are followed by an oneiric denouement which finds Cai locked in a plane of darkness, adrift and in search of light. Indeed, the use of light is Qiu’s greatest strength in his first feature, although at times it can also feel overwrought. His main stylistic flourish is in his use of chiaroscuro and baroque lighting, defaulting to a palette typically leveraged both in sparse dramas (like Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas) and unconventional noirs (Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, for instance).

Just as in Paris, Texas, the colors he primarily employs are green, yellow, and red. Yellow is often found in the home’s lighting, where there is a pervasive sense of foreboding, celebration, and grief simultaneously, at the site of Cai’s marriage’s demise. Green is frequently found in sites of rebirth; Lin can often be seen wearing it throughout her development as a woman, and in the daylight after the long-awaited storm. Red, the color used maximally by Qiu (at times to a fault), encroaches on Cai, the landscape, and eventually the viewer in the purlieu of their screen; it represents at once Ling’s engulfing rage and her anxiety toward the structurally collapsing environs in which she finds herself.

Despite the film’s general subtlety, it is not particularly allergic to clichés. The rain finally comes, the divorce is finalized, and Cai is reborn. Some Rain Must Fall, then, ends on a rather contrived note: a visit to the dentist. He tells her that her tooth is broken, and that he has to “clean it first. The damage is quite deep. This will be painful.” She grimaces when he inserts his instrument; in a moment of small triumph, we finally see Cai accept her circumstance, and she begins to cry. Qiu’s debut is a quiet one, respectably uplifting Yu’s strong performance. It’s a movie about death and rebirth and the varying cycles of life, propelled one after the other by their obverse — sacrifice and selfishness, loathing and love — to great effect. And while Qiu may not be able to sustain the suspense he initially establishes or fails to distinctively interrogate the film’s content, he has made an assuredly beautiful film frame-by-frame, one that gestures toward the work of a great filmmaker to come.

Published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2024 — Dispatch 2.