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Digging to China (1997)

PG | | Drama | 11 September 1998 (USA)
10-year-old Harriet dreams of leaving her home, where she doesn't feel she's needed by her mother and sister Gwen. When her mother dies in a car accident, she really starts to make plans ... See full summary »




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Complete credited cast:
Leah Schroth
Amanda Minikus ...
Nicole Burdette ...
Miss Mosher
Eric (as Robert Putney)
Annie Jaynes ...
Young Harriet
Tow Truck Driver #1
Tow Truck Driver #2
Flirting Man (as Keith Harris)
Nicole Namer ...
Girl in Classroom


10-year-old Harriet dreams of leaving her home, where she doesn't feel she's needed by her mother and sister Gwen. When her mother dies in a car accident, she really starts to make plans for leaving and she finally does so together with her childlike (mentally ill) friend Ricky. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

friend | sister | alcoholic | ufo | grief | See All (178) »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and some emotional moments | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 September 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Egy alagút Kínába  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$19,162, 13 September 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$33,556, 20 September 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Evan Rachel Wood's movie debut. See more »


Harriet's legs change position from shot to shot when she's coloring on the floor. See more »


[first lines]
Harriet: My mother lived in one world. I was always looking for another.
Harriet: Once I tried to squeeze down a rabbit hole.
[fire department arriving]
Harriet: Then I tried digging all the way to China.
[sparks fly]
Harriet: That's when I learned a mysterious electric force protected the center of the Earth. Then I tried to make the carpet from the front hall fly me to Persia.
Harriet: I always wish for the same two things, which are really only one thing. I want something magical to happen to me. And I wanted my mother to ...
See more »


Referenced in Little Secrets (2001) See more »


Samba Pa Ti
Written by Carlos Santana
Performed by Carlos Santana
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Song Music Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

a deeply moving story on the power of love the need for human connection
3 December 2001 | by See all my reviews

Director Timothy Hutton together with an ensemble of right on performances turns what could be a weepy tale of friendship between a retarded man and an 11 year old girl into a deeply moving story on the power of love the need for human connection. Evan Rachel Wood is without a false note in her portrayal of Harriet, a little girl who searches for escape from her dreary life into an elaborate and eccentric fantasy world. She is looked at as slightly goofy by her classmates, a spirited handful by her alcoholic 'mother', and a major pain in the butt by her promiscuous older 'sister'. It isn't until Ricky, played by Kevin Bacon, and his mother come to stay at the family's motel cabins, on their way to bringing Ricky to an institution, that Harriet finds a real kindred spirit. After Harriet's 'mother' is killed suddenly in an auto accident (she had a tendency to drive on the wrong side of the highway) a crucial family secret is revealed. The friendship between these two outsiders begins to deepen. Despite the obvious obstacles of age and mental condition each provides a connection which the other needs, a relationship which allows Harriet's imagination to flourish and Ricky to feel valued and fully human for the first time. As the two other women in Harriet's family (who all look surprisingly alike enough to be a family), Cathy Moriarty and Mary Stuart Masterson are beautifully understated in their performances. Despite the problems in lives of these women each is characterized with the same indomitable spirit. We see the same spark in each of their personalities, each at a different stage of defeat and resignation. The struggle for them is not to let life's circumstances defeat them. For Harriet and for Ricky there develops a real love and friendship which is unique and wonderful but, as the title suggests, it is a relationship which is both dangerous and inevitably hopeless. First time director Timothy Hutton brings the same intelligence and thoughtfulness to his directing that he brings to his acting. He has created a great looking film and helped create some marvelous and honest performances. The visual scheme of the film effectively captures many its themes of connection, entrapment, secrecy, and fantasy. His camera also tends to sit low, giving us a child's eye view. He sometimes allows the camera to literally participate in the world through Harriet's imagination. By not burdening us with extraneous details concerning the women's relationships with male characters (except for Ricky) the characters to exist in their own emotional space. The music is artfully chosen. Digging to China captures the struggles of coming of age as well as to make our connections to one another richer and stronger. It is a carefully conceived, powerfully acted, and beautifully directed film. It goes beyond the familiar territory with style and grace. Take the kids and transcend the cynical. This is one of the best films I've seen all year.

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