Zhang Mo's Suddenly Seventeen was inspired by Chinese and Western views on marriage

Zhang Yimou’s daughter Zhang Mo will make her directorial debut with Suddenly Seventeen, which explores how differently China and the West view marriage.

As well as working as an editor on four of her father’s films, Zhang Mo also studied filmmaking at New York University. Zhang said that returning to China after studying in the United States felt like a “reverse culture shock”. Aged 26 at the time, Zhang was taken aback after people thought she should already be married and planning a family.

Her debut film, Suddenly Seventeen, which is released this weekend, is aimed to encourage young women to “explore a little further” before settling down. The fantasy romance film is based on a short novel.

“Women in the West, by the age of 28 … they still feel like they’re still young, they still want to pursue their career maybe, and (find) out who they are, but in China it’s almost like the opposite,” Zhang said.

In the film, 28-year-old protagonist Liang Xia (Ni Ni) is unhappy in love and eats a magical chocolate that wipes her memory and reverts her back to the age of 17. Every five hours, Xia jumps back and forth between 17 and 28, escalating the conflict in her life.

Zhang said that being the child of someone as well renowned as Zhang Yimou has it’s drawbacks.

“Learning from him, you’re learning from the master. That kind of knowledge, it can never be replaced by anything else. But from a reputation standpoint, sometimes it can backfire a little bit, because I feel like, especially here, if you are born into so-called celebrity second generation family, people immediately think you must have way more resources and you can have way more shortcuts. But actually, it’s not true. If anything, it’s the opposite, because the family aspect casts such a big shadow that you have to be extra creative or work extra hard to gain the audience’s approval.”

Suddenly Seventeen will be widely released in China this weekend and will be given a limited release in cinemas across major English speaking countries.