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Director Zhang Yimou reteams with his former muse Gong Li in "Coming Home," a tenderly rendered romantic drama with political overtones.

It's the late 1960s, and the Cultural Revolution — the Mao government's infamous crackdown on intellectuals and dissidents — is at its peak. Lu (Chen Daoming) is a political prisoner who has escaped from a work camp. Officials are sure he will try to reunite with his wife, Yu (played by Gong), and their teen daughter, Dan Dan (Zhang Huiwen), an aspiring ballet dancer who loses a major role because of her father's status. Lu is recaptured in a train-station confrontation that leaves Yu bloodied and traumatized.

Years later, the Cultural Revolution ends, and Lu returns home, only to find that Yu is suffering memory problems and no longer recognizes him. With help from Dan Dan, who has become estranged from her mother, Lu moves into a nearby storefront and attempts to rebuild relations with Yu.

Zhang and screenwriter Zou Jingzhi (adapting Yan Geling's novel) delicately trace the arc of Lu and Yu's altered relationship, which reflects the uncertainty of life after the Cultural Revolution. Gong, who was so radiant in her '90s works with Zhang ("Raise the Red Lantern" being their best), gives a particularly moving performance as a woman caught in a permanent loop of grief.

'Coming Home'

Opens Friday, Oct. 16, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some thematic material; in Mandarin with subtitles; 109 minutes.