Late '20s Indo-China. A 15-year-old schoolgirl leans wistfully on the rail of a ferryboat crossing the Mekong. Observing her is an elegant, rich Chinese. With exquisite Parisian manners he offers her a lift to her lowly Saigon boarding-house. Thus meet the Young Girl (March) and the Chinaman (Leung) referred to in Marguerite Duras's assumedly autobiographical '80s novel (controversially, Annaud opted for a Gérard Brach script rather than Duras' own). For all the footage of glistening flesh - most of the film takes place in a darkened room where the two explore the realm of the senses - this is basically a melancholic piece about the remembrance of times, places and passions lost (with voice-over narration by Jeanne Moreau). The Young Girl, altogether too complex for the inexperienced March to do more than simply embody, was then in the process of taking her life into her own hands. She will become a writer, and has developed the strength to avoid both the predatoriness of her mother and the romantic dependence of her lover. But at a price. This sombre quality dignifies an otherwise shoddily directed movie.