There are fathers and sons. There are many variations on the clash of wills. Domination and discipline is what the male tries to demonstrate love for. The son who disobeys orders. This kind of warfare takes a toll on both participants and the mother who loves both husband and son. As the years go on, the father mellows or the son decides to take another approach to the man who has been such a dominant force in his life.
In Sunflower, a compelling examination of a rocky and turbulent father-son relationship covering three decades in China during a period of many changes, there is a lot of this. Their struggle is similar to the power struggles in society. In Quitting, the central interest was on the emotional dynamics of family conflict.
The Beijing courtyard where his parents live is where he was named after. Gengnian ( Sun Haiying ), a painter, states that his son ‘s destiny is to follow in his footsteps when he picks up a paint brush. Gengnian was sent to a labor camp where his hands were damaged by torture during the Cultural Revolution. His wife is relieved to see him after six years. A nine-year old boy who loves getting into trouble with his friends has turned into a very independent boy. He hates his father. Gengnian decided that his son must do what he was never able to do. When he is forced to draw while his friends play or attend movies, the son battles his father every step of the way.
The father is looking forward to his son going to college after he becomes a skilled draughtsman. He sees his son as his own second chance because the young man is more talented than he was. A pretty young woman who spends a lot of time skating falls in love with a man. Gengnian stops him when he tries to leave town with her for a new life.
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Twelve years later, they have decided not to have children. Gengnian and his wife feel betrayed by their son for not respecting their dream of being grandparents. When his father invites him to an exhibition of his paintings, there is a final clash between them. Will Gengnian show up or will he be upset with his son again ?
The other lives of this family are touched by the turbulent relationship between Xiangyang and Gengnian. They survive an earthquake and live together in a tent. She came up with a clever scheme to make sure that she gets a modern apartment that suits her feelings of entitlement. Gengnian has a sometimes strained relationship with his best friend and fellow artist, which becomes more meaningful in their old age. In the closing scenes of Sunflower, you can see a glimpse of the playful nature of elders in Beijing where they gather to dance, do exercises, and frolic together in the city parks.
There is a documentary on the making of Sunflower on the special DVD features.