Icarus Films continues a long history of making (mostly foreign) "provocative" films available in North America with the release of the 2017 Chinese film "Angels Wear White." The 26 wins and additional 41 nominations for this film about a public official sexually assaulting two middle-school girls verify that this is a special addition to the incredible Icarus catalog.
The aforementioned accolades include Best Film and other top honors at the 2018 Asian Film Awards. Closer to home, "Angels" receives similar love at the 2018 Nashville Film Festival and the RiverRun International Film Festival.
Our story begins with middle-school girls Wen and Xin arriving late at school; their positive and less-than-positive interactions with classmates indicates that things are the same everywhere.
The plot thickens on school authorities and the 'rents getting involved. It quickly is learned that the girls are the victim of a sexual assault at the motel where they spent the night. The perpetrator being a local government official complicates matters.
Director/writer Vivian Qu divides the action between the investigation and the two older teen girls who live and work at the scene of the crime. Similar to the dynamic between Wen and Xin, Lily is a lazy party girl who spends a great deal of time with smooth criminal boyfriend Jian; Mia is the country mouse who wants to do the right thing but is vulnerable because she lacks the documentation that legal status requires.
Attorney Hao is the conduit between the two narratives. She wants to protect the victims against police coercion and also is persuading Mia to tell the truth,
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Commissioner is using every weapon in his arsenal in an effort to try to protect his freedom and his reputation. This includes exerting pressure on a man with unclean hands regarding the attack.
We also get a highly cynical negotiating session; this harsh scene includes the highly symbolic message that an iPhone should be of adequately high value to serve as payment for allowing sexual assaults to go unpunished. The significance is that the average Chinese person cannot afford this luxury item that Chinese workers are paid very little to produce.
The conclusion of "Angels" is surprising and provides the last bit of commentary on modern Chinese culture. We see the extent to which the government will go to maintain a facade of an orderly society and to protect the men in power.
The numerous themes in the movie show that it is one to watch; it provides a relatable dilemma and paints what seems to be a realistic picture of China. We additionally get reminded of the perils of hanging out with a bad influence.