With the quiet, understated "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," Wayne Wang has come full circle, returning to the small, intimate films like "Chan Is Missing," "Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart" and "Eat a Bowl of Tea" that established the Hong Kong-born Chinese American writer-director, best known for his deft screen adaptation of "The Joy Luck Club."
When recently widowed Mr. Shi (Henry O), a dignified, slightly stooped older man from Beijing, arrives in Spokane he tells his attractive daughter Yilan (Faye Yu), whom he has not seen in 12 years, that she looks exactly the same. That she is brusquely dismissive of her father's remark proves revealing: She is not really glad to see him and it does not occur to him that she has been changed by life in the U.S.
Mr. Shi immediately starts behaving like a traditional Chinese father, wanting to know everything Yilan does and where she goes, imposing upon her his conservative views of women that clash with the liberated, independent, self-reliant woman she has become. Yilan's resentment, however, bespeaks of older grievances and Wang's staging of the inevitable climactic scene is inspired. As Mr. Shi, who could not be more well meaning, pours out his heart to Yilan, sitting in his bedroom, Yilan is in her living room. We hope that she is hearing him through an open door, but we cannot be certain.