“Enigmatic, progressively more engrossing noir ... structurally inventive, if not downright format-twisting.” (Screen Daily)
1995. A rural village in southern China. Decay is in the air and a body is in the water. An old woman’s body is found by the river. Homicide detective Ma Zhe heads up the investigation, working out of a disused cinema and leading a ‘model brigade’ of singularly uninspired cops. As the plot thickens and the body count increases, it is clear that we are not dealing with your regular whodunnit. Shooting on film with the low-contrast aesthetic of the Sixth Generation, Wei Shujun gives us a kind of Chinese Twin Peaks where the murder investigation opens the gates of a surreal journey through the often-humorous dysfunction that is China at a transitional moment. Finally, the distance between vanguard police work and madness is a disturbingly short one.
“Wei Shujun’s inventive riff on Asian-noir gives the expanding subgenre something its Chinese contributions often lack: a pitch-black sense of humor… Humanizing quirks and flourishes abound, providing profundity to this touchingly melancholic portrait of small-town desperation.” (Variety)
“Only the River Flows gradually finds its focus as the story progresses, leaving the viewer staring into the same abyss the detective does – an abyss that, as in any respectable film noir, stares back at him.” (Hollywood Reporter)
“Visually entrancing … a mystifying gem. One of the best films at Cannes 2023.” (Frieze)