The story is set in Shanghai in 1937. After graduating from college, four friends have to choose the future direction of their lives. The unemployed Xu attempts to commit suicide but is saved by his friends. Liu leaves the city to join the Communist army’s fight against the Japanese. Zhao and Tang remain in Shanghai and dream of their perfect careers: Zhao wishes to become a writer and Tang a sculptor. However, they end up in much less glamourous jobs: while Zhao works as a proofreader at a newspaper, Tang is hired as a window dresser. Zhao’s next door neighbour, Miss Yang, is a technician in a cotton factory. She works during the day while Zhao does night shifts. Fed up with the cramped space in their divided room, they exchange nasty written messages. They meet on a bus and subsequently fall in love without realizing that they are neighbours. Zhao is assigned to write articles on social issues and decides to interview Yang. Before long Yang loses her job and decides to go back to the countryside. Her friend, Yao, manages to bring her back to Zhao, but Zhao has also been fired. At this hopeless moment, the news of Xu’s suicide shocks everybody. Rather than losing their spirits, Zhao, Tang, Yang and Yao react with strength and optimism. They decide to follow Liu’s example and join the fight against the Japanese invasion.
Crossroads analyzes Chinese youth’s struggle to survive and to achieve their ideals in a hostile city that frustrates and destroys their dreams. Despite many unresolved problems of urban life such as unemployment and the housing shortage, Crossroads managed to live up to leftist expectations, and it conveys a strong political message through its positive ending. —chinesecinema.ucsd.edu