After earning the highest score on a academic qualifying exam, it seemed like the sky was indeed the limit for brainy cosmology student Liu Xing (Liu Ye) who left his Beijing home to work alongside his scientific idol, Dr. Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn) at an American university. However, comingling superstring theory with the indefinable, immeasurable topic of “dark matter” which became his obsession proved to be both Liu Xing’s greatest academic challenge as well as the ultimate metaphor for the darkness lingering just below the surface of Liu himself.
When his former academic rival arrives at the university and not only seems far more at ease in embracing Western culture but also threatens to take away Liu’s place as Professor Reiser’s pet, Liu realizes that his dream to find a definitive proof for his theory to win a Nobel prize and marry a quintessential blonde haired, blue-eyed American wife may be jeopardized by university politics and academic egos.
Based on a horrific 1991 incident that ended in tragedy at the University of Iowa, the structurally operatic film which is divided into headings of the five elements marks the feature filmmaking debut of internationally renowned theatrical director Chen Shi-Zheng. In addition, it features a wonderful performance from Meryl Streep as a supportive university benefactress whose own love of Chinese culture makes her the natural choice to take the department’s international students-- especially Liu-- under her wing.