Luo Jiang and Guihua, a poor, middle-aged couple with few prospects, decide to buy an 11-year-old girl, Xiao Ezi (aka “Little Moth”), for $140 in rural China. Xiao Ezi’s life is in peril, as she is forced to earn money for her new parents as a beggar while suffering from a blood disease that leaves her unable to walk. Her greedy adoptive father, Luo Jiang, refuses to buy her medicine, while Guihua’s growing maternal affection wracks her with guilt. After a run-in with local extortionists, the three flee into the territory of the unsavory Mr. Yang, whose one-armed boy Xiao Chun is also forced to beg. Inevitably the grownups take turns taking advantage of each other, giving the children a rare opportunity to develop a protective bond with one another.
With virtually no budget, a hand-held digital camera and a cast of non-professionals, Peng Tao turns the sordid street life of small town China into a chain-reaction tale of human cruelty and unforgettable suspense. Little Moth “melds the anger and storytelling scope of Dickens, the doc-influenced immediacy and sensitive gaze of the Dardenne brothers, and the best tendencies of recent Chinese cinema.” —dGenerate Films
What I find really frustrating about this film is that it seems void of morals. Everything takes place as if it is supposed to be. It is a narrative film with a script, yet the director doesn't seem to have punctuated the story. Everything flows. But where is the provocation?