Keld, though kind, is dull. Rie, his wife, has had enough. When she announces she is leaving and divorcing him, Keld musters what protest he can: “Couldn’t we buy new furniture instead?” Guess not; Rie is out in an instant, right after telling Keld that he must admit to adultery, although she knows he has been faithful, to expedite the divorce. Rie can’t wait to get on with the rest of her life. Keld, on the other hand, falls by accident into the rest of his when he marries Ling, the younger sister of Feng from the Chinese restaurant across the street, so that she can remain in Denmark. It is strictly intended as a “pro-forma” arrangement; as Feng puts it to Keld: “No hanky-panky.” An eventual divorce is part of the plan; ah, but in this tender gem of a romantic comedy—wouldn’t you know?—Ling and Keld fall in love.
Bjarne Henriksen, Vivian Wu and Wu Lin Kun, as Keld, Ling and Feng, all act beautifully.
Chinaman—the title of the film and what Keld comes to be called—is a quiet, very gentle comedy in which even Rie turns out to be a supportive ex-wife. When we see him last, Keld is following tradition; in China, he is consigning the ashes of his beloved to a golden river. It turns out that Ling had come to Denmark for reasons of health. She had an enlarged heart. Scenarist Kim Fupz Aakeson and director Henrik Ruben Genz’s romance turns bittersweet.
The complacent Danish plumber grows emotionally and spiritually as a result of his contact with another culture, even before meeting Ling. We are sad to lose Ling but are deeply joyful that she and Keld came together for whatever time they had together.
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