MONA LISAXiu Xiu's grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Together with her adoptive sister A Qiong, the young woman tries to get the authorities to allow her parents, who are in jail, to visit the elderly woman. Meanwhile the sick woman's husband and his granddaughter beg the neighbors for money for medication and examinations.
Chinese directors often take up small, digital cameras and use their flexibility and portability to insert themselves in the middle of life. But this film, based on real living conditions, is about much more than any grievances over the ailing social system. Always remaining on the same level with his actors, who play themselves, Li Ying shows how rigid politics directed at the individual can lead to estrangement even in the smallest units of a society. He poignantly tells of family members who don't necessarily find each other in the course of this narrative documentary, although they do ask decisive and pressing questions. Xiu Xiu desperately tries to get her jailed stepmother to tell her whether she was kidnapped as a child or was adopted.