Love is the Only Answer (人約離婚後)

love is the only answer

Patrick Kong is at it again with another tale of love in the city. Like Marriage with a Liar, cheating couples expound on the nature of romance and relationships; unlike that movie, this one is fairly enjoyable, thanks to the credible acting skills and unexpected chemistry of the leading couple. Lest you be too greedy, still expect snipy women, painful acting, frenetic editing, and a big reveal.

Kong trades up by casting TVB star Charmaine Sheh as his leading lady. Neither an ingenue nor a busty leng mo, à la Kong’s previous muses Stephy Tang and Chrissy Chau, Sheh brings a grounded realism that makes her character Bo seem relatively normal in the hyperactive and reactive world of cinematic Hong Kong women. She takes control of her life, as adults are wont to do, in a very dramatic way on her wedding day – by exposing her new husband Ryan’s (Alex Fong Lik-Sun) sex tape with her bridesmaid (Jeana Ho).

For most, that would end the relationship, full stop. But Kong just uses it as his starting point to spin a nonsensical plot. One year later, Bo and Ryan are getting along fabulously, in a way that has no basis in reality. He uses her to get rid of clingy girlfriends and, since he is filthy rich and the landlord of her fruit stall, she exploits their quasi-friendship to get more favorable rent. They go out for dinner together when good food and good deals are involved, and they seem to enjoy exchanging rapid fire insults and constantly reminding each other that they are in fact divorced. I don’t know divorced people like them, but maybe you do.

Feelings start to get muddled and hurt when Ryan convinces Bo to join a spouse swap. As luck, or the writer, would have it, the couple trade with another young and good looking pair, Lai (Kelly Fu) and Kit (Him Law). Ryan and Lai are eager to dive into things and immediately get on with whatever it is that swapping spouses want. Meanwhile, Bo and a very reticent Kit, who just joined to please his wife, try to turn their awkward situation into something more genuine.

While that part of the story is on slow boil, Kong introduces a minor plot involving an engaged couple, Jason (Jason Chan) and Christy (Anjayliya Chan). Jason spends most of his screen time making puppy eyes at his fiancée, who returns the favor by snapping like a hyena at every single thing. It is an exercise in bad storytelling; this part seems totally extraneous – until the closing minutes of the film when it.all.comes.together. But by then, the couple feel like more of a contrivance, an overly complicated way to squeeze in a commentary on love that would be better made by focusing on Bo and Ryan’s story.

This frantic tying up of loose ends is endemic to Patrick Kong, also serial abuser of flashbacks. As with previous movies, the writer-director slices and dices at will – I want to say like a Jack Kerouac of Hong Kong romantic comedies, but that would be wrong. Again the editing tends to prove distracting rather than reflective, with the action toggling back and forth between past and present and one couple or another.

Kong also cannot overcome his penchant for casting supremely unskilled actors. Sheh and Fong shine like bright stars in his firmament, and I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that. The mismatched couple surprises in several ways. They make convincing sparring partners, but I also found myself drawn to the brazen honesty of their characters and relationship. Alex Fong the Younger is devilishly magnetic as the cad. Unfortunately the same appeal does not extend to the supporting cast, which, cobbled together, make about ¾ of an actor. But this is Hong Kong film, so we all have to make sacrifices.

超生記 – themesong by Charmaine Fong.

Released: 2011
Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Writer: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Charmaine Sheh 佘詩曼; Alex Fong 方力申; Him Law 羅仲謙; Anjayliya Chan 陳嘉寶; Jason Chan 陳智燊; Rose Chan 陳嘉桓; King Kong 金剛; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Fu Ka-Lei 傅嘉莉; Chak Hoi-Tai 翟凱泰; Timmy Hung 洪天明; Charmaine Fong 方皓玟; Jacqueline Chong 莊思敏; Harriet Yeung 楊詩敏; Dada Lo 盧頌之; Evelyn Choi 蔡穎恩; Michelle Wai 詩雅; 6 Wing 陸永; Jeana Ho 何佩瑜; Carol Yeung 楊梓瑤; Raymond Chiu 趙永洪; Bob Lam 林盛斌; Kandy Wong 黃山怡; Tat Dik 狄易達
Time: 90 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014