Heartbreak and resilience fuel this quietly epic saga, in which one woman’s fortitude and knack for crime carry her through a rapidly changing China.

A tragicomedy initially set in the jianghu-criminal underworld-setting, Ash is Purest White is less a gangster movie than a melodrama. With a three-part structure, it begins by following the quick-witted Qiao (Tao Zhao) and her mobster boyfriend Bin (Fan Liao) as they stake out their turf against rivals and upstarts in 2001 postindustrial Datong before expanding out into an epic narrative of how abstract forces shape individual lives, and continues Jia Zhangke’s body of work as a record of 21st-century China and its warp-speed transformations.

One of Sight and Sound’s Best Films of 2018.

Reviews

One of this year's greatest treasures, one of its most mature, complex characters, and certainly one of Zhangke's best.