Generally speaking, I cannot say I have ever watched a Jet Li movie for the acting. I never looked at him as much of an actor, I mean, my earliest exposure to him did not exactly reveal a charismatic leading man. What he could do was kick enormous amounts of ass with his impressive martial arts skills. My first time seeing him was his Hollywood debut, Lethal Weapon 4. He did not say much, but he certainly made an impression. Many of his Hong Kong films rank among the top martial arts movies ever made. Now we have him in a purely dramatic role in Ocean Heaven.
It certainly is a change of pace for the legendary screen martial artist, although not wholly unexpected. In recent years, he seems to be taking roles that require a bit more acting, or allow him to try and act a bit more. The first examples that come to mind are Danny the Dog (aka Unleashed) and Fearless. These are quite different in tome and still involve fighting, but the character arcs allow him to stretch a bit more.then he stated he was no longer going to star in wushu films. He certainly seems serious in creating another stage of his career. Ocean Heaven certainly does that.
Ocean Heaven is a drama that requires no fisticuffs, no fighting of any kind as a matter of fact. This is a purely dramatic film, ordering on melodrama at times. It is also a very good film. It is a story about love,about the familial bond, and about struggling to protect your loved ones and care for them at all costs. It is a sweet film that is sure to touch your heart.
The movie tells the story of an aquarium supply manager named Wang (Li) and his autistic son, Dafu (Wen Zhang). Wang is a widower who has dedicated his life to his son. The thing is that there lives take a drastic turn when Wang learns he is terminally ill, stage four liver cancer. He has essentially been given a death sentence with only a few months to live. This news, which Wang keep hidden from his son, causes him great distress, which he also keeps hidden. He know dedicates his remaining time to two things, first is trying to find someplace that will care for him when he is gone, and second he wants to teach Dafu to be cable to care for himself.
Ocean Heaven, written and directed by Xiao Lu Xue, spends a lot of time on the relationship between Wang and Dafu. It is one of dedication, patience, and genuine caring. It feels very real, and while I am unsure as to the accuracy of how autism is portrayed, the movie does a fine job of drawing you in and caring about them and the struggles they face. It does not hurt that Li and Zhang have great chemistry, it is easy to look at them and see father and son.