A movie review of “Lost and Love”: A father (Andy Lau), whose son was abducted, and a son (Jing Boran), who was taken from his parents, travel China on an elusive quest. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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Human trafficking is at the root of “Lost and Love,” based on a true story about a father’s hunt for his long-missing son in China.

But this poignant drama is no issue movie. At various times a buddy comedy, a tragedy and a spiritual as well as literal journey, “Lost and Love” (that awkward, English-language title is a mystery) borders on the epic.

Writer-director Peng Sanyuan gracefully cycles through ever-changing shifts in mood and tone, a reflection of the understandably mercurial emotions of the film’s two lead characters, the middle-aged Lei (Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau) and the 20-ish Ceng (Jing Boran). Unlikely partners on an elusive quest, the pair can’t help but make one think of a softer version of John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in John Ford’s 1956 “The Searchers.”

Movie Review ★★★  

Lost and Love,’ with Andy Lau, Jing Boran. Written and directed by Peng Sanyuan. 118 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.

After 14 years of traveling China, chasing clues that might lead to his abducted son, Lei encounters Ceng, who knows he was taken from his parents as a toddler and sold to the family that raised him. Lei partners with Ceng to find the latter’s biological family.

The film’s first act is largely a tale of Lei’s strange life as a kind of mad wanderer, riding a motorbike adorned with large flags featuring his child’s face. Endlessly riding through one province after another, enduring scorn and humiliation, Lei finds in Ceng a surrogate son.

From there, “Lost and Love” becomes the story of their ups and downs: sometimes playful and affectionate, sometimes explosive, mutually courageous.

Peng’s eye as a director is more pictorial than visually adventurous, but she can underscore the urgent heart of a scene — no matter how busy — with impressive speed. Watching Lei and Ceng lose one another in a crowded outdoor market and calling out in panic, as any parent and child would, has a truthfulness both terrifying and beautiful.