Meticulously paced and beautifully shot, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers brings us into the life of Mr. Shi (Henry Q) at the moment he walks into a train station in Spokane, Washington, where he is greeted with seeming lack of affection by his adult daugher, Yilan (Faye Yu). Director Wayne Wang, getting back into indie film after making films like Maid in Manhattan and Because of Winn-Dixie, has made a lovely film here about the often complicated relationship between fathers and their adult daughters. The film, adapted by Yiyun Li for the screen from her short story of the same name, has much in it that was written specifically about this dynamic in Chinese families, but most anyone watching the film will find something to relate to in the interactions between Mr. Shi and his daughter.
Mr. Shi has come to Spokane to stay with his Yilan, to help her through the aftermath of a divorce. He is simultaneously overprotective and uncertain, and his presence in her spartan apartment very clearly makes Yilan uncomfortable. He's like a family knick-knack sent by a well-meaning great-aunt -- he's out of place in his daughter's apartment and her life, but because he's her father, she can't just toss him away. He fumbles about, trying to help his daughter in the only way he knows how, by cooking Chinese food for her. Abundantly. (Don't go see this film if you're hungry, you'll be craving the nearest Chinese buffet by the time it's over.)