By Jonathan Romney in the May-June 2020 Issue
Winner of the Tiger Competition Award at Rotterdam in January, The Cloud in Her Room is a film with a very distinctive and appealing voice. In common with much independent and experimental cinema across generations of young filmmakers, the movie has a free-associative, diaristic, even scrapbook feel. Its narrative—about a young woman tussling with past and present troubles, familial and romantic—emerges at its own leisurely pace in between the images. The heroine is 22-year-old Muzi (Jin Jing), back in her hometown to celebrate Chinese New Year and to pick up the threads of her complicated life with her parents now separated. Shot in director Zheng Lu Xinyuan’s own hometown of Hangzhou in eastern China, her black-and-white account may or may not be autobiographical per se, but in its jazzy extemporizing looseness, tendency to jump tracks, and intense focus on its careworn young heroine, it certainly feels highly personal. The Cloud in Her Room presents itself as an entire world unto itself, and Zheng Lu explores every corner. But whether that world is to be considered a corner of contemporary China, or of its director’s own life or psyche, is a question that the film lets us answer for ourselves.
Jonathan Romney is a contributing editor to Film Comment and writes the Film of the Week column. He is a member of the London Film Critics Circle.