A brilliant Chinese student (Ye Liu of Purple Butterfly) thinks his dreams have come true when he arrives at a California university to study astrophysics under his idol (Aidan Quinn), but after the young man develops a dazzling new theory that contradicts his mentor's model of the universe, he gets a chilly lesson in academic politics. Billy Shebar based his script on the true story of Gang Lu, a doctoral student who killed five people at the University of Iowa in 1991, and fails to pull off a comparably bloody climax. But first-time director Chen Shi-zheng shows great sensitivity to the pressure and isolation felt by Chinese brains at American universities, and the relationship between Liu and Quinn provides a rare look at the intellectual serfdom of graduate study. With Meryl Streep. R, 88 min.
By J.R. Jones