“Sleepless in Seattle” must have made a lasting impression on Chinese moviegoers and filmmakers alike. A new film titled “Beijing Meets Seattle” (北京遇上西雅图) in Chinese, or “Finding Mr. Right” in English, is being released in China.
Starring Tang Wei (汤唯) of “Lust, Caution,” the film portrays a young Chinese woman named Jiajia, the materialistic girlfriend of a Chinese tycoon. In a ploy to gain U.S. residency, she comes to Seattle pregnant. She stays at a birthing center, where she meets a handsome doctor, Frank, played by Wu Xiubo (吴秀波), a Chinese immigrant and single dad. Jiajia loses contact with her wealthy boyfriend in China, and eventually Jiajia and Frank fall for each other. Later Jiajia’s boyfriend reappears and takes her back to China, where she can lead a life of comfort and luxury in Beijing. But Jiajia’s feelings for Frank win out and she decides to return to the U.S. to find him.
While Seattle may be the city of choice for the story, the location scenes were actually shot in Vancouver, B.C. Scenes of English Bay and Granville Island are visible in the trailer clips. But the North American lifestyle features prominently — the couple walking along a marina or drinking red wine in front of a festive Christmas tree.
Director and writer Xiaolu Xue (薛晓路) of Beijing Central Television has helped create a number of Chinese-themed TV series, such as “You Smile and I Cry” (你在微笑我却哭了) and movies, such as “Love in the Forbidden City” (紫禁城奇恋). Her “Beijing Meets Seattle,” however, touches upon a cross-national subject, one that may be popular among Chinese viewers but controversial in the U.S. — foreign nationals coming to the U.S. to give birth.
Time magazine’s 2011 story “Pregnant and Bound for America: Why Chinese Moms Want to Give Birth on U.S. Soil,” described the growing trend of wealthier pregnant women getting tourist visas to fly to the United States and give birth in America to make their babies American citizens.
Connected to so-called maternity tourism, birthing-home operations have made headlines in California and New York. Recently, such operations in Southern California have been the target of loud complaints and protests from local residents. Los Angeles County has taken measures to crack down on such businesses.
In the fictional Seattle birthing center where Jiajia stays in the movie, director Xue combines a social phenomenon in modern China with the longing for an American-style sentimental love story featured in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Likewise, Xue chooses the Empire State Building as the place where Jiajia and Frank reunite two years later.
While the subject is controversial, depicting a type of business many would frown upon, Seattleites can be happy that at least Chinese moviegoers would once again look to the city as a destination for romance.