Be Somebody (Yang ming li wan) is a Mandarin-language film with Agatha Christie vibes. In Post-war Shanghai, Scriptwriter Li Jiahui (Yin Zheng) is invited to a dinner party at a seemingly remote mansion with other members of the Shanghai film industry. Lu Ziye (Minghao Chen), a producer, proposes a film about the infamous murder of three veterans. If the film makes it big, they will all ‘be somebody.’ The guests aren’t initially aware that not only is the murderer among them, but they’re also at the scene of the crime. There are twists and turns as the dinner guests, led by Li, seek the truth of what happened that evening.
The synopsis alone had me sold, and for the sake of preserving the overall mystery, the description is brief. It wasn’t the most original film I’ve ever seen; it borrowed heavily from Clue. Every character in the group had some sort of secret or scandal. They were locked in a mansion on a stormy night, trying to solve a murder. The cast of characters was entertaining for the most part, though some were borderline annoying. My favourite characters were the film consultants Qi Leshan (Benyu Zhang) and Da Hai (Xiaoxian Qin). Their reactions were like my own to the group of filmmakers.
I was not expecting the murderer to be revealed so early in the film, but I think it worked. The murderer and his police escort were the two most interesting characters in the entire movie. The murderer was clever and calculated, throwing out a few red herrings along the way. But, if you’re watching close enough, you can figure things out fairly quickly.
As a former reporter, Li led the investigation of the murder and sought the truth until the film’s last minute. Li’s own scandal was writing stories that the CCP didn’t like, essentially getting himself banned from writing anything other than film reviews in the newspaper. Without Li, our cast of characters would still be wandering around the mansion today, 70-plus years later.
As I mentioned, not the most original film, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. This movie filled the void that was saved for Death on the Nile. It was amusing to see a different rift on Clue and it also had a The Shining reference that made me laugh. It was just a fun film to watch, and I’m glad I caught it during its 1-week run.
The best thing to come out of the pandemic is the amount of non-English language films that have gotten a chance in theatres. Even if they’re only in the theatre for one week, it’s still an opportunity. I’m glad that the big studios aren’t releasing as many films, and honestly, I hope that gems like Be Somebody end up getting a chance to be seen in the US.
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.