Not One Less

Zhang Yimou’s film “Not One Less” tells a simple but moving story. Mr Gao, the only teacher of the Shuiquan Primary School, has to stay away for a month to take care of his sick mother. The village leader, Mr Tian, asks Wei Minzhi to take Mr Gao’s place until he comes back. Minzhi is only a 13-year-old girl who has finished her primary school. When she is asked to do the job, she says she can read, write and sing. She gets the job because there is nobody else in the village who can take it. The most important thing for young Minzhi is not to lose any more pupils from the school—NOT—ONE—LESS—before Mr Gao returns!

At first Minzhi doesn’t know what her students need to learn. And she doesn’t know how to keep them quiet in class. She writes the lessons onto the blackboard and then makes her students copy them into their notebooks. She tries to keep the students in the classroom by locking them up in the classroom and running after those who escape.

The naughtiest pupil in her class is an 11-year-old boy named Zhang Huike. He causes trouble for Minzhi almost every day.

Perhaps you think Minzhi will be happy when Huike runs away from school. No! When she hears that Huike has gone to town, she becomes very worried and determines to bring Huike back safely.

Minzhi wants to go to town, but she can’t afford to buy a bus ticket. All the other pupils do their best to help her get onto a bus without a ticket. When Minzhi has to get off the bus, she walks till she finally reaches the town. She looks everywhere but cannot find Huike. Then she decides to ask the TV station for help. She wants them to let her appear live on the air, hoping that Huike will see her.

She waits at the gate of the TV station for two days till the boss calls her. When Huike sees the crying Minzhi on television, he himself starts crying, but he is also happy to see her. At last, both Minzhi and Huike go back to their village, together with the people from the TV station.

Many people like this film not just because the story itself is moving but also because most of the people in the film use their real names and play themselves.