Ocean Heaven (海洋天堂) is a 2010 Chinese-Hong Kong drama film starring martial arts superstar Jet Li in his first full drama role. It also co-stars Taiwanese actress Kwai Lun-mei, who previously starred in Jay Chou's Secret. The movie was filmed in Qingdao at the Qingdao Polar Ocean World and received promotion from the Qingdao council.
It was announced that it was to be released in spring 2010, but the release date was pushed back to 24 June 2010, which opened the 2010 Shanghai International Film Festival on 2 June. Jet Li wants this film to get a good message across and promote the works with autism as well as the works of his charity ‘The One Foundation’.
Xue Xiaolu, a teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, wrote and directed the 7 million yuan (US$1 million) movie. The first-time director has been a volunteer for 14 years with Beijing Stars and Rain, a non-governmental educational organization for children with autism. The story was mostly based on her personal real life and experience. She said, "With the addition of actors like Kwai Lun-Mei and Wen Zhang, I am even more confident in the film production."
At first nobody was willing to take a risk on such a non-commercial script until film mogul Bill Kong, the man behind Hero (Yingxiong) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong) stepped in. It saw the inclusion of award winning cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love), composer Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Departures, Hana-bi) and production designer Yee Chung-Man (Anna Magdalena, Curse of the Golden Flower).
Ocean Heaven is about a terminally ill father, Sam Wong (Jet Li) as he works his job in an aquarium and struggles to look after his 21-year-old son Dafu, who has autism (Wen Zhang). Sam has single-handedly brought up his son since his wife died 14 years ago and looks after him day and night attempting to help him learn basic tasks in order to care for himself, as well as searching for a home for his son before he passes away. As the story progresses, the growing relationship between father and son as well as the community around them become clearer. Ling ling (Kwai Lun-mei) plays the role of a clown who is part of a small traveling circus (they perform in the aquarium for a short period of time) and who gets on well with Dafu, leading to a close friendship between them.
Though Dafu struggles to learn many basic tasks, Sam perseveres in teaching his son the tasks that he will need to know how to perform himself once his father dies. Meanwhile, the principal of the boarding school for mentally challenged children that Dafu attended as a child finally recommends Dafu to a newly opened institution where he can stay after his father dies.
Dafu continues learning. Ling Ling, knowing that she is about to have to leave with her circus, teaches Dafu to pick up the phone in the aquarium when he hears it, and she will talk to him. Sam, for the first time, swims in the aquarium with his son, dressed up as a sea turtle, telling his son not to be afraid when he is gone; he will be like the turtles in the aquarium, always swimming close by with him.
Ling Ling leaves with her circus. Sam eventually dies, and his funeral is attended by close friends and family. After the funeral, Dafu is seen doing some of the things that his father struggled so much to teach him with success. He cooks by himself, knows how to ride the bus, and picks up the phone when Ling Ling calls. It is implied that from then on, Dafu will know how to lead his life on his own, though he still has Sam's old friends helping him along the way.
Jet Li as Sam Wong / Wang Xincheng
Wen Zhang as David / Dafu
Kwai Lun-mei as Ling
Zhu Yuanyuan as Madam Chai
Dong Yong as Director Tang
Gao Yuanyuan as Sam Wong's deceased wife/Dafu's mother
Yan Minqiu as Principal Liu
Chen Rui as Xia Ya