Title: Kinamand (Chinaman)
Release Date: 2005
Length: 88 minutes
Director: Henrik Ruben Genz
Starring: Bjarne Henriksen, Vivian Wu, Lin Kun Wu
Kinamand might be the most difficult movie to watch of all the films on my list of semi-obscure movies. It has nothing to do with the content, but rather that it never received either a theatrical release in the US. If you’re lucky, Netflix will still have a copy of it on DVD or decide to add it to their streaming offerings. If you choose to buy a disc, you’ll need a region-free player. Seize the chance if it offers, however; it’s a good movie. On the surface, it’s not much more than a basic fish-out-of-water rom-com, but it ends up a bit more than that largely because it doesn’t try too hard to be a bit more than that.
The movie is in Danish, except for the parts that are in Chinese, and you’ll have to watch it subtitled for the reasons above. A Danish plumber, going through a (at first amicable) divorce, begins to eat most of his meals at the local Chinese restaurant because he can’t cook a lick. He makes friends with the proprietor both by his constant presence and by aiding them with an plumbing emergency.
Love doesn’t burgeon between him and one of the family though, no, they ask him to be part of what in the US would be called a “green-card marriage” with the owner’s sister. She wants to stay in Denmark and this is their plan. They offer the plumber a substantial sum to be part of their scheme. He accepts and wacky hijinks ensue, yeah? Nope. He won’t do it.
Our protagonist is forced to reconsider when his wife makes demands for money in their divorce settlement that he doesn’t have. The movie finally takes a turn for the predictable, but it’s brief. I won’t spoil any more of the movie, but it never fully lapses into cliche, not quite. The characters seem like people throughout and not just flat caricatures. It zips along at a breezy 88 minutes but still makes you care about the people on screen.
We could do with more movies like this one. No outsized budgets, no huge stars, no insane effects. Just a good story (in a couple senses) told well. It can be a tough film to track down, but if you have the chance you won’t regret the 90 minutes you spend watching it.