Not One Less
There is something quintessentially middlebrow about the way that the work of Zhang Yimou (”The Story of Qui Ju,” etc.) is routinely saluted in America for its austerity — as if the abstract/opaque characterizations in a movie like Not One Less were windows into Asian exoticism. To be fair, there has been a government crackdown on filmmakers in China, and that may account for why this sugary morsel of a fable, about a 13-year-old substitute teacher obsessed with keeping her charges from dropping out of school, is as wispy as it is touching.
Wei Minzhi, playing a heroine named after herself, may look like a tenderfoot, but she’s got a cast-iron quixotic will. When a student runs away to the city, she goes there to find him — and won’t leave until she succeeds. Her fanatic persistence is never clearly explained, and so we’re left to view Wei as a dogged teen saint. ”Not One Less” is pleasant enough, but it’s just feel-good neorealism.