Return to Dust

Directed by Li Ruijun
Film Movement
134 Minutes
Drama, Asian, Romance
Not Rated
play trailer

In rural Gaotai county, two lonely, middle-aged outcasts are pushed into an arranged marriage by their families. Ma (Wu Renlin) is a humble farmer with little to offer his timid and sickly wife, Cao (Hai Qing), except for a small abandoned house on a barren patch of land. From just a few seeds, their newly planted crops take root and flourish; and similarly, an unexpected bond between the two starts to blossom. As seasons pass their dedication to each other grows stronger, but change and adversity soon threaten the idyllic existence they share.

A tender tale about the transformative nature of love, RETURN TO DUST is an “absorbing, beautifully framed drama” (Variety) from acclaimed director Li Ruijun that became a surprise box office hit domestically in China.


  • Wu Renlin
  • Hai Qing
DVD Features

Bonus Short Film
Hair Tie, Egg, Homework Books
Directed by Luo Runxiao
China | 15 minutes
Chinese with English subtitles

Model student Lin Yuqi is assigned to give a speech about her family at a parents open house event but after a run-in with a mischievous classmate she starts having second thoughts.

Discs: 1

  • Highest Rating
    "Critic's Pick! [Q]uietly heartbreaking.... [A] touching portrait of love and resiliency...with superb performances by Wu Renlin and Hai Qing...."
    Austin Considine, The New York Times
  • Highest Rating
    "China’s leadership has a history of suppressing art that spotlights the failings of its ruling class and ideology, which is exactly what Li’s film does...That he succeeds without making it feel like homework — which is to say beautifully, humanely — is presumably what made the film so threatening."
    Austin Considine, The New York Times
  • Highest Rating
    "Return To Dust [features] beautifully-judged performances that radiate warmth and encourage empathy. It marks Li Ruijun as a significant cinematic talent."
    Anna Smith, Deadline Hollywood
  • Highest Rating
    "This poetic tale of an arranged marriage which blossoms into a true partnership is Li’s most affecting and accessible work to date."
    John Berra, Screen Daily
  • Highest Rating
    "An unhurried but hypnotic portrait of two discards thrown together to scratch out a life as they weather the seasons."
    David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
  • Highest Rating
    "“Return to Dust” is an absorbing, beautifully framed drama...."
    Jessica Kiang, Variety
  • Highest Rating
    "Every frame of this movie is exquisitely considered without seeming fussy or stagy. It helps, maybe, that the film is about humble people in humble settings...RETURN TO DUST abounds in small poetic touches from the director and his lead characters."
    Glenn Kenny,
  • Highest Rating
    "A fine-grained, unsentimental paean to a couple’s fortitude."
    Ryan Swen, Slant Magazine
  • Highest Rating
    "The strength of Return to Dust lies in its depiction of the love between Youtie and Guiying...Add to this that the movie is gorgeously shot, with beautiful uses of color...If the film takes minutes to get going, by the end, viewers will likely feel that the filmmaker hasn’t wasted a minute."
    Andrew Plimpton, Film Forward
  • Highest Rating
    "A gorgeous piece of cinema...."
    Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema
  • Highest Rating
    "It’s an intimate drama that... moves you with its warm humanist core.... Both leads are remarkable."
    Zhuo-Ning Su, Awards Daily
  • Highest Rating
    "Wu Renlin, who stars as the farmer, shines in a deeply humane film that also deals with the conflict between rural traditions and increasing modernisation."
    James Mottram, South China Morning Post
  • Highest Rating
    "Weihua Wang’s elegant camerawork... proves irresistible. While “Return to Dust” envisions an entire country in microcosm, it also reflects how a relationship can open up the entire world...."
    Stephen Saito, The Moveable Fest
  • Highest Rating
    "It’s a tremendously graceful piece of filmmaking, with a light, compassionate touch. All the pieces come together in a richly satisfying way...."
    Oliver Johnston, The Upcoming
  • Highest Rating
    "In the history of film, there have been hundreds of movies that deal with relationships between men and women. I would be hard-pressed to find a better film that deals with two people who had an understanding of each other as this one does. "
    Dan Skip Allen, Disappointment Media

Awards & Recognition

You May Also Like...