This was hands-down a very interesting movie and unlike anything else I've seen before. It gets bonus points for being different and educational at the same time.
It was a historical look into China, the customs, their actions, their silver to paper transition, the plight of the people. There's much to learn in this one. It made me think of things I've never thought of before. I was also intrigued with how...no matter what they do to each other, this family sticks together.
Old Master is stuck in old ways and trying to get Third Master on board and keeps stressing the need to maintain their legacy. But Third Master, he thinks differently and wants to improve the plight of the people...not right away, mind you, but this is a slow revelation and trust me, this family needs improving. I mean, really, depriving an entire nation of salt until they're near death, just to sell it?
I liked Third Master, though I can't say I always I understood him or the things he did. He professes to love this woman more than anything, but I didn't see him going to America, leaving his empire of silver to be with her.
The love story interested me more than anything, the woman, his stepmother. At first glance, she's submissive. But as the movie continues, she binds herself so her husband cannot mate with her. When that fails, she has her uterus removed to deny him sons off her. She takes pretty drastic measures! There's some guts there. She was fascinating.
And here we get to the problems with this movie:
1. Many of the scenes--at least three involving her and/or her and Third Master's romantic history were not subtitled. I don't know why, but they disappeared. I'm deaf. I need those subtitles. I didn't know what the heck was going on regarding their past. WHY if she was intended to be his concubine, did she not just be his concubine? Why marry his father instead? To be near him?? HUH? She would have been better off as his concubine. Many things in this romance made no sense to me at all and I feel I was left without a lot of answers partly due to these unsubtitled scenes. This bothered me very badly. A story was revealed while a book was on the screen, some chatter between a white woman and a priest or something wasn't subtitled, and then a scene with two women. No idea what they were saying and the scenes were long enough that I missed some pertinent data.
2. It doesn't have a HEA. The romance is ALL in the past, not "right now".
However, that's life. I was disappointed that he didn't love her enough to leave the empire though. I also didn't understand how despite his deep hatred for his father, he continued to stay and take over the business. I guess that's a custom/tradition I simply can't relate to. The important thing is, however, that he does the right thing in the end for the Chinese people.
I recommend this as a movie to educate (while entertaining) viewers on Chinese history, culture, banking, and customs. It's like stepping into another time and place as you immerse yourself in this one. And the romance is passionate, despite my quibbles. You'll be moved to tears. Three stars.