Hay Fever

Institute History

  • 2006 June Screenwriters Lab


When Mei, a young Chinese woman, leaves her small village to journey out into the world, it is like a baby leaving the womb. The outside world is a foreign country, whether she is in Beijing or in the West.

In search of a different life, she arrives in Beijing and finds a job in a factory, sewing national flags for the government. She is soon fired and ends up working in a hair salon, where she meets Spikey, a young man who, like her, is a peasant struggling in the big city. Spikey works as an occasional hit man for the local mafia. He and Mei develop a tentative relationship until one day Spikey vanishes. When Mei discovers money under his bed, she decides to take it and leave for England.

In London, after finding illegal employment in a massage parlor, she accepts an offer to marry Mr. Hunt, a 70-year-old Englishman and lover of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, in order to stay in the country. Foreign and alienated, Mei is locked in a silent world, unable to bridge the cultural, linguistic, and age barriers that surround her.

When she meets Rashid, a young Arab, the two develop an intensely sexual relationship. Mei impulsively leaves Mr. Hunt, showing up at Rashid’s, where she spends the days watching television, making love, and cooking food Rashid neither wants nor likes. Sex with Rashid is her only means of communication in a world where she has no outlet.

Hay Fever follows Mei’s journey from her dreary existence in rural China through modern Beijing and ultimately to a life in the West. Along the way, she discovers her true self as she bumps through the accidental choices of life.


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