Not One Less (1999) – Review

If you want to travel right into the solitary classroom of a remote village in China and smell the chalk,

If you want to realize the extremely high degree of comfort with which you have been provided education throughout your life,

If you want to know that tattooing the arms, or embracing hippie culture, or listening to punk rock is not the display of attitude but showing perseverance is,

Then Not One Less is the movie for you.

With amateur actors and an as-is backdrop, Not One Less, based on the novel, There is a sun in the sky, is a neo-realistic masterpiece that will leave footprints in the heart of every person who is willing to have a microscopic view of the dilapidated condition of basic education in rural areas. There is simply no equivalent to this genre of movies where they use subtle incidents like transporting bricks, counting the chalk pieces left, to touch upon burning concepts, in turn, hijacking the viewer’s mind and rattling the roots of his fundamental beliefs.

Wei Minzhi, a 13 year old girl, comes to a school in a remote village in China to substitute Teacher Gao for a month as Gao wants to leave the village to visit his dying mother. Wei Minzhi now becomes Teacher Wei. Before he leaves, Teacher Gao tells her how to handle the kids and gives her 26 chalk pieces for the month. A chalk a day! Strictly! Due to the diminishing interests of impoverished kids coming to school, he asks Wei to have not one less until he comes back so that she would be rewarded with an extra 10 yuan. Unfortunately, one of the kids, Zhang, runs to the city in search of work. Wei now has to go to the city all alone in pursuit of the little boy and bring him back. Will she find him?

Not One less will be a revelation to you. Could someone be as persevering as her? Could someone at her age display such terrific attitude? In the current generation, where the hope of pursuing one dream is almost of minuscule importance because of the countless choices ahead of us, this movie is like a slap on the wrist to bring us back to the good old fact that “Have one thing in mind. Go for it.”

It’s neither the novelty of the story nor the naturalistic characterization that makes this movie. It’s those tiny little moments that make this movie.

Moments like,
Wei, with her hands on hips, singing, “Our country is like a garden”, are cute and nostalgic.

Moments like,
The kids sharing and sipping on that single can of coke after a tired task under the sun, will tell you how much globalization and its glamor have caressed the roots of the poor.

Moments like,
Wei asking the students to do a simple math to arrive at the amount she needs to go to the city, will tell you how basic education is the need of the hour.

Pick this movie at all costs. You just don’t pick this movie but a truly magnificent experience along with it. And if you don’t get a chance, start going in pursuit of it!

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