Fresh from the debacle of Killing Me Softly, Chen returns to the all-male themes he's most comfortable with (fathers and sons, teachers and pupils) and turns in a slick and sentimental crowd-pleaser without a trace of the aesthetic ambition which coloured even his weakest previous work. The teenage Xiaochun (Tang), brought up in scenic Suzhou by his uneducated lone-parent dad (Liu), is a whiz on the violin. Father takes son to Beijing to seek training for his obvious talent; they wind up first with the eccentric and irascible Professor Jiang (Wang) and then with the aloof and competitive Professor Yu (Chen Kaige himself), who engineers a rivalry between the boy and his existing star pupil, a girl. Meanwhile Xiaochun finds a surrogate mother-sister in Lili (Chen Hong, the director's current wife), the outwardly hard-as-nails gold-digger who lives opposite his picturesquely squalid digs. The film aims for a tone of rhapsodic melodrama and - nauseatingly - achieves it in a climax in which victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat and Xiaochun's true origins are revealed in out of the blue flashbacks, all to a Tchaikovsky soundtrack.