In a small village on the outskirts of Beijing, there is a unique little school that runs an 11-week course specifically for autistic families. This school relies entirely on charitable donations and has very rudimentary facilities. Its name is ¡°Stars and Rain¡±.
The film tells the story of the Feng Jiawei family who, after being on a waiting list for nearly 2 years, finally make the long journey to ¡°Stars and Rain¡± to participate in the course. They desperately hope the school will teach them how to understand and cope with their autistic 5-year-old son. Their boy cannot speak and is often violent ¨C especially towards his mother. The local schools will not take him and the family feel ostracized from society.
As there is limited community help for autistic people in China and no social security system, the parents are extremely concerned about their future prospects as a family. They know that if they cannot get their son to integrate into society and attend a standard school, then life will be very bleak. Their fear is that their son will never be able to get meaningful employment or support himself.
Should that become a reality, they have already decided on a drastic and tragic plan - to commit a family suicide. They know that when they are too old to work and cannot provide for their son, he will have to beg. They feel he will not survive on the street so they want to die peacefully together by taking a lethal poison. This plan is not uncommon among autistic families in China.
They nervously attend the first classes and Feng Jiawei is uncooperative. He bites and hits both his mother and father and is not responding well. The teaching methods and ideology of the school are presented using interviews with the founder (Tian Huiping) and the teacher in charge of Feng Jiawei (Teacher Feng).
Over the 11 weeks, we follow the Feng Jiawei family to see if they can learn new techniques and make progress. We get to know some of the other class members and parents along the way too. The parents tirelessly follow the program and the advice given to them by Teacher Feng. They slowly begin to nurture brighter hopes for their future and experience some sensational break-through moments.
The course ends and whilst there is a note of optimism, the prospect of returning to an unsupportive hometown brings back old feelings of sadness and fear. For 11 weeks they have been fighting their son's autism. For the first time, they have been embraced and felt the warmth of people who share and understand their pain. Now, they have to return to a cold and unfriendly community and continue the battle. Will the progress their children have made be enough?
The film provides a deeply moving insight into the tragic hardships parents face when trying to bring up an autistic child in China. It is a deeply emotional film filled with moments of joy, desperation, devotion, and beautifully tender parental love.