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Gianna Jun, Bingbing Li, Vivian Wu, Jiang Wu, Russell Wong ... see more see more... , Coco Chiang , Jingyun Hu , Archie Kao , Chiang Yi , Cao Shiping , Zhang Ruijia , Gong Zhebing , Lilia Zhou , Guo Congmeng , Shen Danping , Dai Yan , Xu Yu Lan , Wang Zhiming , Xu Shouqin , Tang Ying , Chen Tao , Feihu Sun , Zhong Lu , Mian Mian , Lv Zhong , Fang Zhoubo , Ding Xiaofu , Qiang Li , Zhang Liqiu , Hugh Jackman , Andy Gao , Lin Ying , Li Huixia , Jin Pei , Meng Fan Hua , Qu Rongyi , Zhou Yancen , Long Nv , Lv Xiaolin , Wu Jiang

In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking... read more read more... turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. -- (C) Fox Searchlight

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48% liked it

6,345 ratings


21% liked it

87 critics

PG-13, 1 hr. 44 min.

Directed by: Wayne Wang

Release Date: July 15, 2011

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DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011

Stats: 260 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (260)

  • October 3, 2012
    I read the book a long time ago, but I still remember bits and pieces. This story nicely depicts that book, in my opinion. No movie can EVER completely follow a book, nor should it. These are different interpretations of a story. This movie was very well done, moving, and beautif... read moreul. I greatly enjoyed the parallels made with the modern world, and the ancient. This movie does not need to be compared to the book. It stands quite well enough on its own....
  • June 7, 2012
    Directed by Wayne Wang, IDG China Media & Fox Searchlight Productions, 2011. Starring Bingbing Li, Gianna Jun and Hugh Jackman.

    Genre: Drama, History

    Question: Do you share a lifelong friendship with someone - a friendship that makes your life better, helps you through the ... read moredark times and shares the good times? Beaches showed a lifelong bond between two women and it told a nice tale, however, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan just wiped Beaches away with one flick of the fan. This may have been one of the greatest friendships stories I have ever witnessed on film. Lovely, just lovely.

    We have all had friendships when we were little, some even lasting into our early adulthood or beyond. You are lucky if you find a friendship like that. I had a friend when I was young and I loved her like a sister. Unfortunately, that friendship ended.. A few years later I tried again with another when I got to high school. In fact, I even saw Beaches with my "best friend", which is what you did when it came out in 1988. We laughed together and we cried together and said "That was so us." However, she ended the friendship a few years later and I have had difficulty ever since trusting others.

    So, I am always leery to see anything about a strong friendship between two women, but I am trying to expand my movie genres and decided upon Snow Flower and the Secret Fan since it was a foreign film. I hadn't reviewed a foreign film yet. I am happy to say I am glad I put my personal concerns aside.

    There are two stories told within this movie about a friendship between two women: one in modern-day China and one in 19th century China. Each story mirrors the other when trying to describe the love these two women had for each other. Both stories used the same actresses to tell the tales: Lily/Nina, (Bingbing Li)and Snow Flower/Sophia (Gianna Jun).

    In modern-day China, the girls are school friends. One helps the other learn better mandarin since she is Korean. They are inseparable despite the disapproval of Sophia's stepmother. However, her aunt knows of their strong friendship and tells them the story of the laotong girls or "old sames". This is an ancient way of how girls were bound together for eternity in friendship. These friendships were necessary due to the horrific obligatory life they had with men. It was an ultimate support system.

    Something happens to one of the modern girls and then the ancient story starts about Snow Flower and Lily - another pair of laotong girls. Their story paralleled the modern one and wove in and out seamlessly.

    Their story started in 19th century China as little girls (age 7) both had their feet bound on the same day. Yes, this was something they used to do to make sure their feet wouldn't grow. Their feet were not supposed get bigger than a few inches - in their world that was "perfection". This was to insure them worthy enough for a man. There were a few scenes about this torturous method that were very hard to watch.

    However, the young girls were then made to live together and then sworn to each other as laotong girls. This made them very happy. Then they learned a secret language to help them communicate where men could not see. This would be written on fans and passed back and forth as they grew up, married off and tried to have sons - since they weren't considered fit wives or decent women if they had only girls.

    I will admit the ancient story of the bound feet, the abuse they had to endure, the control men had over women, and something that everyone went along with, had me sick to my stomach. There was even one scene, although most of it was only heard, had me in tears with certain amount of anger only because I know things like that happened and still can happen today. However, the next scene was between Snow Flower and Lily and I think I cried even harder. Not a word spoken by either of them but the love, the kindness, the friendship portrayed was breathtaking.

    I have not revealed much of the plot with this review - just a few facts and some parts that made a powerful impact on me. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a beautiful movie about a friendship that will last 10,000 years. To witness something like that on film was a gift. I hope you get a chance to see this film; and I hope you are fortunate to see it with your best friend.

    My favorite thing: The scene I mentioned earlier with Snow Flower and Lily.

    My least favorite thing: Witnessing the control and abuse women had to endure.

    Rating: PG-13
    Length: 120 minutes

    Review: 9 out of 10

    The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Lisa See.
  • January 9, 2012
    For Me to review this film isn't fair as its an Asian chick flick, so my rating would be much lower then most females. It is a interesting story about two girls who both modern day and very far back in the past who are morally bound to each other. Lacks the detail of costume that... read more I've grown accustomed to and find enjoyable in Asian Film Making, seem to have a bit of American influence in this one. 3 Stars
  • March 6, 2013
    On the eve of Sebastian(Archie Kao) and Nina(Bingbing Li) moving to New York for work, Nina receives news that Sophia(Gianna Jun), an old friend she had met as a teenager when she tutored her in Chinese, is in a coma from being hit by a car on her bicycle. Nina is surprised when... read more told that Sophia was trying to call her shortly before her accident since they had not talked in so long. That's nothing compared to discovering the manuscript Sophia had written about a friendship between two girls in rural China in 1829.

    The well-produced "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" has certain things also going for it in its rare thoughtful exploration of the friendship between two women, coupled with how China has a problematic relationship with its past, with a focus on the barbaric practice of foot binding which here is sort of fetishized. That having been said, the movie would have been much improved concentrating on just one time period, not three, instead making this feel like mainly just the highlights of a pretty good television series, complete with special guest star.
  • December 12, 2011
    With a name like "Snow Flower And The Secret Fan," I just had to see this movie! I'm very glad I did. I'm surprised 80% of critics didn't like it. I seemed to me like one of those movies the general public wouldn't go crazy for for but the critics would fawn over like a precious ... read moregem. It almost always seems like if a movie is really great to the public, the critics won't like it and vice versa unless it's a classic like Toy Story or something. I'm not really surprised only 40% of the viewers liked it because people don't know a good movie when they see one these days. However, I, who pride myself in being a good judge of quality, REALLY liked this one. I can't compare it to the book because I never read it so I'm not partial.

    It was magical in its color and music and emotion. There were a few times I cringed or gasped and at least two times I was deeply moved by sadness or love. I disagree with anyone who says this movie didn't pull on the heartstrings. I do agree with the people here who said they should have focused more on the story of Snow Flower and Lily and not so much on the parallel narrative. Still, it was a compelling story and beautifully filmed.
  • July 6, 2011
    Only four people on Tuesday afternoon in Xi'an cinema wasn't a good sign for heavily advertised movie in China. I am glad that wasn't a sign of anything else than rainy day... This very philosophical Chinese movie is based on the 2005 novel by Lisa See and directed by the Hong Ko... read moreng-born filmmaker Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club). Snow Flower and the Secret Fan boast a strong ensemble cast, including the Chinese actress Li Bingbing, South Korea's Jeon Ji-Hyun, and Hugh Jackman. The film was jointly produced by Wendi Murdoch, wife of Rupert Murdoch, and Florence Low Sloan.

    This multi levelled story of female friendship (or something a little bit more) takes us through the ages, beginning in 19th century China, where seven-year-old girls Snow Flower and Lily bind themselves together for eternity as laotong, or "old sames". Isolated by their families, the girls communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, Nü Shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In the modern story set in present-day Shanghai, Snow Flower and Lili's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain their close friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated relationships, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai.

    This movie is a real revelation exposing to the audience the nearly forgotten codes of conduct imposed upon women in imperial China, as well as abandoned traditions such as foot binding. Showing us and contrasting the pressures of life for women in ancient and modern China, as well as their commonalities, the film shows that while times are always changing, friendship can be taken as a historical constant.

    Well-made movie for real lovers of history and well written story with excellent camera work!
  • February 14, 2013
    Depicted from the Lisa See book, this film beautifully reflects the lives and sacred bond between two best friends who are closer than sisters. Wayne Wang remarkably captures the significance in storytelling through this film in the portrayals of Snow Flower and Lily in comparis... read moreon with Sophia and Nina. Gianna Jun and Bingbing Li both are phenomenally stunning in their representation of dual characters. Always great to see the beautiful Vivian Wu in films, her character portrayal reflects her immense talent in the craft.
    Definitely worthy!
    Definitely hope to see more Lisa See books made into films.
  • January 20, 2012
    'Snow Flower And The Secret Fan' (2011) is a delightful and gentle art house film. It expresses the true love in friendship.
  • November 2, 2011
    Why do movies have to ruin books? The whole parallel storyline should have been left out. If this film had stayed truer to the book and delved more into the characters of Snow Flower and Lily, I think it would have been much better.
  • January 22, 2013
    As a fan of the book I thought the modern twist was appalling. Nina and Sophia were not even in the book and had no part in the story. I didn't like how they showed Lily and Snow Flower in flash back form. They cut out a lot of crucial scenes, and sped up others. Especially the s... read morecenes that were more 'intimate' between the two. You could see the longing in some scenes, but not enough to truly grasp the depth of these two.

Critic Reviews

Leah Rozen
October 7, 2011
Leah Rozen, TheWrap

An ever-so-tasteful, watered-down and unnecessarily-improved-upon adaptation of Lisa See's bestselling 2005 novel of the same name. Full Review

Connie Ogle
August 4, 2011
Connie Ogle, Miami Herald

The drastic alterations to Lisa See's compelling novel about the lifelong friendship between two women in 19th century China are unsettling, at least for fans of the original bestseller, and they detr... Full Review

Tom Long
July 29, 2011
Tom Long, Detroit News

It's a coordinated, stylish dance, but the steps are awfully familiar. Full Review

Andrea Gronvall
July 29, 2011
Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader

In this lavish adaptation of Lisa See's novel, the complex chronologies of the parallel narratives are skillfully handled by director Wayne Wang, which makes his reliance on unbridled sentimentality a... Full Review

Roger Moore
July 27, 2011
Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" aims for the heartstrings and only strikes a few notes. Full Review

Randy Cordova
July 22, 2011
Randy Cordova, Arizona Republic

The film is visually sumptuous but emotionally inert. It never draws in the viewer. Full Review

Colin Covert
July 22, 2011
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

It's the No-Joy, Bad-Luck Club. Full Review

Stephanie Merry
July 21, 2011
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post

Emphasizes melodrama over character development, until the proceedings feel like a rabbit hole of misfortune. Full Review

Joe Williams
July 21, 2011
Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Once we've quickly digested the fortune-cookie message that modern women are as bound by obligations as their grandmothers were, all we can savor is the scenery. Full Review

Moira MacDonald
July 21, 2011
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

Bears little resemblance to the book, and even less resemblance to a good movie. Full Review

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    • Nina/Lily: I'd like to spend more time with my laotong tonight.
    • Snow Flower/Sophia: I'm writing a book. It's about the old days.

Snow Flower And T... : Watch Free on TV

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