Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) and Feng Wanyu (Gong Li) are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner, just as his wife is injured in an accident. Released during the last days of the Cultural Revolution, he finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize Lu, she patiently waits for her husband's return.
A stranger alone in the heart of his broken family, Lu Yanshi determines to resurrect their past together and reawaken his wife's memory.
Based on Yan Geling's novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi, COMING HOME is a love story about joy and sadness, as well as separation and reunion. We used the end of the original story – with Lu Yanshi returning home – as the starting point of the script. Everyone knows that Chen Daoming and Gong Li are the finest actors working in China, and they were my first and only choices for their respective roles. I've learned a lot from working with them. They offered a lot of constructive opinions about even the smallest details in the story. That's why their contribution to the film extends far beyond the portrayal of the characters.
Having a so-called "rising star" in the daughter's role was not a must as her character serves a very important function in the story. When I first met Huiwen, I noticed her bright shining eyes, which resembled the aura of young Red Guards. It was what I needed. For the second part of the film, I needed to change the way her eyes look. They should look as if they are in a trance, always hesitant. Huiwen had the ability to do that.
This type of film is very difficult to make. It needs to be made in a state of serenity. If I thought about benefits and profits even a little, then I would lose my way. That's why, for me, this film represents a return to an earlier state of mind and an older approach to creativity. The most important thing for me is whether the audience will keep this film in their hearts and whether they will truly remember the emotions behind COMING HOME.
– Zhang Yimou