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Mao's Last Dancer

Please Note


PG for a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking.


Drama, Adaptation


August 20, 2010 (Limited)


Chi Cao, Amanda Schull, Kyle MacLachlan, Bruce Greenwood, Wang Shuangbao, Jack Thompson, Aden Young


Bruce Beresford


Samuel Goldwyn Films


Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


Mao's Last Dancer

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer
The epic story of peasant boy from China turned internationally renowned ballet dancer is wonderfully captured by Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford. Based on the autobiography of the same title, Mao’s Last Dancer stars Chi Cao, a principal dancer at the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Dance aficionados, or not, audiences will be intrigued by this true story of courageous determination.

The Movie in a Minute

Li (Chi Cao) knows nothing of life outside of his poor Chinese village, until the age of 11 when he is chosen to train at the Beijing Arts Academy. Leaving his family and friends behind, Li travels to the center of his communist-run country to learn ballet from the Party’s greatest teachers. There he is discovered by visiting artists, Houston Ballet’s artistic director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood) and his company’s principal dancers. His talent garners him a trip to America and a summer of training with the Houston Ballet Company, where he finds a true passion for dance.

Theatrical Trailer for Mao's Last Dancer
>> Skip to read the rest of the review

Mao's Last Dancer: The Good and the Bad

Good marks for screenwriter Jan Sardi and producer Jane Scott, who were integral in getting the process of making this autobiographical work into a movie started. It’s the true story of how a young boy harnessed the courage to leave his family and country to become a world-class artist, and the lessons he learns seeing Chinese and American life compared in the early 1980s. Li’s inspirational journey will touch hearts this weekend in the United States, as it already has in Australia (where most of the filming took place and was originally released back in 2009).

Sitting in the director’s chair is Academy Award nominee Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant). An Australian filmmaker, Beresford is close to the finale of Li’s story. Down Under is where Li Cunxin lives today with his wife and three children. In front of the screen is Chi Cao who is making his film debut as Li. Though he is not a trained actor, Chi’s portrayal of the lead is doesn’t expose that fact. The virtuoso lends the quiet strength and emotion needed in this film. He does Li Cunxin justice on stage as well. With a similar grace and strength as Li Cunxin had, Cao moves across the stage in ballet sequences orchestrated by acclaimed choreographer Graeme Murphy. Moviegoers will feel as if they’ve left the cinema and been transported to the theater, as they watch some incredible dancers move across the stage. Joining Cao on the cast list is Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), Kyle MacLachlan (Desperate Housewives), Joan Chen (The Last Emperor), and Amanda Schull (Center Stage).

Caution is required when considering this film for younger audiences. Parents should know that its PG rating is partly due to foul language, including one instance when a character said “God-D” and another when a racial slur is used. Other than this issue, the film is relatively clean of any offensive content.

In the End

In the end, Mao’s Last Dancer ends with a bravo performance. Well directed, the film lacked nothing when it came to solid acting from all, set design and cinematography, and exquisite ballet.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn has a deep appreciation for the arts, specifically dance. Having tap danced for 11 years as a child, she recognizes the beauty found in ballet and was all too glad to see it wonderfully displayed in Mao's Last Dancer.

Hannah is the Family and Entertainment producer for For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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