‘Everyday Hero’ is a movie based on the true story of a Chinese man who managed a Poverty Alleviation Program by himself.
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Guo Jian Nan, normally called Nan Ge (Brother Nan) is an engineer of a state-run enterprise in Guangzhou, a southern coastal city in China. His lifestyle is closer to the one of modern westerners rather than that of traditional Chinese societies. He visits a small town called Li Tan for investigating the construction project there. Unlike his developed city, Li Tan still remains a traditional village. The local residents still live in mud-brick houses and the elderly and children in town have been left behind. The town leader has lost his confidence in the Poverty Alleviation Program, just looking forward to having the government’s extra funds.
As in the English title, Nan Ge becomes an ‘ordinary hero’ for the town. He faces a number of difficulties while changing Li Tan, such as a backlash from the “established” in the town and the locals’ misunderstanding, while even his family is not welcoming his idea at first. His approach to poverty is not relying on public funds but on creating revenue within the town. When he tells his plan to the locals, it sounds similar to New Deal Policy instituted during the Great Depression. People are cautious and do not take his idea seriously, but he keeps his faith in this town, never stops helping them to alleviate poverty, and even sacrifices his interest and his own life for them.
Director Zheng Hua creates a great, saintly character in Nan Ge. Even though the movie itself is about the true story of Mr Guo, the director’s focus is almost exclusively on the main character. Some scenes of the movie are wasted to explain ‘how good this man is’ or depict him as ‘gentle, polite Chinese man’ unlike the notorious stereotype of Chinese prevailing abroad, such as speaking English in western restaurants and playing the harmonica for Aunt Mute who has a mental disease. The audience will have a more in-depth idea about him if they have been told about his career background.
This movie tries to show the real poverty that exists in China; however, the audience cannot clearly discern the existing situation because there are too many missing parts in the explanation. If the director spared some time to give details about the undeveloped characters in the village, like Papaya the poor kid or rich pioneer Le Bao and his wife, then the character would be more colorful and persuasive. Or if the director carefully presented Aunt Mute in the movie instead of capturing her as a funny mentally ill person in town, she could be a vivid example of poor uneducated people from deprived town villages. I also felt that he should have explained more about the solving process by Mr Guo, instead of just through a single phone call shot. The simple story makes the entire storyline dry and the audience barely understands the true meaning and value of their achievement as well as why people still miss him.
To achieve an impossible dream, it should be a realistic one at first, and that is what the movie is trying to say. “Everyday Hero” is willing to present a motif of having and achieving the greatest dream, but it should include more details in order to be paralleled with the actual events.