It is the story of 2 boys who grow up together in a school for training actors in Chinese opera, and takes them into adulthood during the Japanese invasion during the 1930s. The abusive child-rearing practices are very hard to watch.
Roger Ebert closes with this:
"Farewell My Concubine" is a demonstration of how a great epic can function. I was generally familiar with the important moments in modern Chinese history, but this film helped me to feel and imagine what it was like to live in the country during those times. Like such dissimilar films as "Dr. Zhivago" and "A Passage to India," it took me to another place and time, and made it emotionally comprehensible. This is one of the year's best films.Empire Online places it in the top 100 of foreign language films. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 88% but an audience rating of 93%.