Thirty-year-old Viv Li is studying art in Belgium and hasn’t lived in her native China for ten years. During the Christmas holidays, she pays a nine-day visit to her family in Beijing, where it soon becomes clear that she feels like an outsider. Her grandmother thinks she’s too thin (“What kind of crap do you eat when you’re abroad?”), her uncle wants to know what she actually does for work, and a meeting with her ex-boyfriend causes grief. Political discussions reveal a deep information gap.
Losing your roots is a painful process, Li shows, though it has its humorous moments. In brief, unsubtitled scenes (the dialogue is summarized in titles above), this short film portrays the discomfort of the bird that has flown but temporarily returns to the nest. Li misses Beijing when she’s not there, but it drives her crazy if she stays there too long—the cruel fate of the migrant, subtly captured in modest but telling scenes. When Li returns to her home in Belgium, the alienation is complete.