The opening sequence of Shower deserves some sort of award. A man walks into what looks like a large phone booth. He strips down to nothing, and water begins spraying onto him. He is in some sort of portable shower that resembles a human car wash. Water and soap pour from nozzles around him and brushes gently massage his body as he rotates on a small circular stand. It's actually quite funny in a strange way. This has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Neither do any of the ads, which show the three principle actors standing in a large bath and a woman walking toward them.

Shower is basically a simple story about family reconciliation, in the same vein as The Straight Story. The outcome is predictable and there is not much plot, yet there are six people credited with the story, director Zhang Yang (Spicy Love Soup), Liu Fen Dou, Huo Xin, Diao Yi, and Cai Xiang Jun. Da Ming (Pu Cun Xin, The Blue Kite, Spicy Love Soup) rejected his father and retarded brother's simple way of life for the big city. He receives a postcard from his brother Er Ming (Jiang Wu, To Live, A Beautiful New World) which suggests his father's death, so he returns to the bathhouse his father runs. His father Master Liu (Zhu Xu, King of Masks) is indeed alive, and the reunion is uncomfortable for both Liu and Da Ming.

The bathhouse represents a simpler time. Its customers are primarily older men, who attend it to relax, catch up on friends and socialize. "Why take a shower when you can take a bath?" says one of Liu's customers. Yang populates the bathhouse with all sorts of quirky people including a fat man who can only sing O Sole Mio when taking a shower, a man on the run from his wife, and two cranky old men who enjoy fighting crickets. They go there to take baths, get massages, pedicures, or other similar treatments. Liu and his way of life are in danger of increasing urbanization; a mall is planning to demolish the entire neighborhood.

The feelings and emotions in Shower are earnest and sincere. Da Ming slowly warms up to a way of life he left behind as he learns to slow down to his father's way of life. Along with the honesty comes a gentle sense of humor pervasive in the entire film. The humor isn't directed at anyone or the result of what anyone does, it is the result of the overall situation. The man describing his estrangement to his wife does so honestly, but the inherent story is so bizarre the audience cannot help but laugh. Yang keeps everything extremely genteel, and the steam wraps beautifully around the characters evoking a dream-like state. There are no surprises at all, which takes some of the intended emotion at the end, but the trip there is still enjoyable.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Chinese with English subtitles, Rated PG-13 for language and nudity.

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