Nestled against a mountainside in the Chinese province of Yunnan lies a poor village with clay-built houses and muddy streets filled with animals and icy mist. Here, Wang Bing follows the daily lives of three sisters aged ten, six and four. Their mother left several years ago and their father works in the city. Under the semi-watchful eyes of an aunt and grandfather, the girls pick lice from their clothing, work on the land, tussle with each other and occasionally go to school.
This condensed version of Three Sisters (2012) places the emphasis on the father’s decision to take the two youngest daughters with him to the city. Left behind in the village, the eldest child endures this dramatic change with resignation. While never attempting to gloss over how harsh and hopeless the situation is, the film is not cynical in tone.
A crucial component of the film is that it repeatedly seeks out the physical perspective of the children. The camera is attentive to both the playfulness and the claustrophobic instability of their world, and often descends to their eye level, into a realm where, in the blink of an eye, work can become play, and their father can become a pair of legs to cling to.