Set in the months between the Sichuan earthquake and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but far from the latter's hype, this debut film is the story of a father, a son, and the mysterious young woman who enters their lives. Reticent twentysomething Deshui lives with his father in a gritty town in one of China's desert regions. His father scrapes out a living while Deshui stashes away cash he makes through his involvement with a local gang. When the pretty young woman appears by the river where Deshui's father fishes, the man brings her home and she becomes part of the family, though she never says a word.
With a rich subtlety, director Zheng Wei traces the desires, tenderness, and cruelty in the unusual relationship that develops between the trio, achieving a remarkable expressiveness through simple but precise editing and beautiful cinematography. The film never strays from the quiet drama of its characters, but in muted yet poignant ways, Zheng lets their physical and psychological tensions reflect a society whose headlong rush into modernization complicates a system of traditional values. Zheng's unsentimental poeticism and assured direction in Fish Eyes marks him as a promising young voice in China's already robust independent cinema.