Hang on - human anguish?
Look, I'm not saying that the life of a Chinese factory worker is a barrel of laughs, but these aren't dark satanic mills. These factories are places people go to get out of the countryside, because the countryside's shit.
That said, the impact on all these "left behind" children is extraordinary.
I live in China and work with factories. Yes, the work s dull and the pay sucks. But if you are so motivated, the factory floor is the first stop on upward mobility. You have to understand that most of these workers are essentially coming from a third world environment with a rudimentary education. There's not much else they can do except start on the first rung of the ladder.

As far as the kids, it's normal for the grandparents to take care of the kids in China. White collar workers in the city use this arrangement too. The only difference is that the factory workers are very far away from their families.
Hey Phil H, don't forget that Jeruseleum was built among dark, satanic mills.
Director Lixin Fan (who also served as cinematographer, an editor, and a camera operator) followed the Zhang family for three years, spending so much time with them that they largely forgot that the cameras were watching. That allowed him to get some amazing scenes of family drama. Other shots were impressive too: hordes of people crowding through train stations, or restlessly waiting while trains were delayed by technical difficulties; artistic shots of cities, rural landscapes along the train routes, and the beauty of the poor Sichuan farms the Zhang parents returned to visit.

The film did well at showing how the parents' peasant-in-the-city lives were primarily drudgery. However, there's a risk when a documentary tries to show the audience how its subjects' lives are dull: the film itself can turn dull. It can be difficult to illustrate tedium without inflicting the tedium on the audience, and at times the film fell into that trap. The film didn't need to spend as much time showing that it's pretty miserable to work year after year in the same repetitive job, in cramped quarters far, far from home, with only brief annual visits to see one's children.

Another fault was that the film depicted the farm back home as such a beautiful place that it was hard to get a sense for why anyone would leave. We know that it's because the farm labor can be back-breaking work, and as someone who has seen that first hand I know that most of rural China is desperately poor, but the film didn't give the audience a sense of those problems.

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