The true story of Li Cunxin and his journey from rural China to the bright lights of ballet stardom is brought to the screen in this biographical drama from director Bruce Beresford. In 1972, eleven year old Li Cunxin (Huang Wenbin) was living with his parents Niang (Joan Chen) and Dia (Wang Shuangbao) and six siblings while attending a tumbledown school in Shandog province. Li's life changed when representatives of Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy visited his school, and he was one of several students believed to have promise as a dancer. While life at the school was difficult for Li and many of the instructors were harsh and unforgiving, Chan (Zhang Su) took the boy under his wing and groomed him into one of the school's star pupils. In 1981, Li (now played by Chi Cao) was chosen to travel to the United States as part of a student exchange with the Houston Ballet Company. Under the tutelage of Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood), the company's director, Li impressed his peers and was given a key role in a televised production of <I>Die Fledermaus</I>; despite an attack of stage fright, Li's performance was a triumph. As Li came to love life in the United States, he also fell for an attractive young dancer, Elizabeth (Amanda Schull), and when his time in America drew to a close, he made the decision to leave his old life behind and pursue a life of personal and creative freedom in America. Also starring Kyle MacLachlan and Camilla Vergotis, Mao's Last Dancer received its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide