“What Is Organic Life?” (啥是有机生活) takes a counterintuitive approach to promote dairy giant Yili’s Satine line of organic drinking yogurt, exposing the uncomfortable reality of a well-off urban family’s home life. Stress and strife predominate, but at the end of the day, an elderly mother grudgingly partakes in a carton of Satine offered by her grown daughter.
Three generations live under one roof, and three interconnected narratives each tie to a defining adjective: a young son describes his high-strung mother (“very bothersome”), she in turn describes her mother (“stingy”), while the grandmother describes the rest of the family (“too wasteful”). These adjectives, paired with the humor of the scenes, form a poignant answer to the question posed by the title, “What Is Organic Life?”
The film was directed by Zhang Dapeng, who is perhaps best known for directing the viral film trailer, “What is Peppa?” (啥是佩奇) for the film “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year” (2019), which Zhang also directed. Additional involvement came from the production company Xiyong Culture.
The Yili Satine brand is barely perceptible throughout the film, garnering the most screen time when the adult daughter scolds her mother for filling the fridge with small boxes of the shelf-stable product. Pulling the containers out, she exclaims, “Oh, Mom! You don’t have to put all this Satine in the fridge! They’re taking up so much space I can’t fit anything else!”
Reactions to the film have been mixed. Some viewers have been put off by the stressed-out lives of the lead female characters, which to them seems at odds with the concept of an “organic life.” Others have praised the film as a realistic depiction of intergenerational conflict with an interesting narrative structure and high-quality production value.