Duckweed is a story that focuses on the relationship between a son and his father. Resenting his father for the way he was treated growing up, Xu Tailang becomes the world’s best driver, an occupation that his father never supported, and wins the 2022 China Rally Championship. Specific circumstances come into play, and Tailang is somehow sent back in time where he meets a younger version of his father. What follows is a story that is fresh, yet familiar, and takes the formula normally associated with similar movies and instead focuses its attention elsewhere.
The focus of this movie is clear in that much of it focuses on Xu Tailang’s relationship with not just his father, but the other people surrounding his life as well. This central focus is made more evident by the decision to leave out any explanation of how it is the main character was able to go back in time. Unlike movies such as “Back to the Future” time travel is not a central aspect of the story, and is left feeling more like an afterthought and plot device more than anything else. This is a good thing though, as it almost becomes a secondary motivation to the main character, with his connection to the characters around him becoming his main driving force.
Despite some of the dark material it deals with, Duckweed is a comedic and light-hearted story that feels refreshing and stands out from other movies at HIFF. The story is well written, with jokes landing where they need to, and creates likeable characters for the audience to enjoy and connect with. As more revelations are made throughout the movie, Tailang comes to understand that his father was quite different in his youth. Early in the movie it is stated that Zhengtai was in prison for the 6 years following Tailang’s birth. This, followed by the montage of Tailang growing up, depicts Zhengtai as a terrible person. As the movie progresses it is revealed that things are not the way they were initially assumed. This is one of the many things that the movie does right: its portrayal of its characters. All of them are likeable, save for one, and that includes the plots earlier antagonist. It is also an accurate depiction of the changes people can go through with the passage of time. There is one character who’s inclusion is only there for an “Oohhh” factor once it is revealed who he will be in the future. His character doesn’t really go anywhere in terms of development.
By its end, the movie’s story feels complete. A couple lingering questions remain but are left that way due to the movie’s focus. In-fact, the remaining questions mostly apply to what will happen next rather than what has already occurred. Even with its dark turns, the movie feels consistent through its entirety, keeping a generally uplifting tone once Tailang has travelled back in time.
Duckweed is definitely worth a watch.