Love is Not All Around (十分愛)

love is not all around

In one of the more outlandish scenes in this movie, the main character Bo (Stephy Tang) accidentally squirts detergent into her eyes, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. As she is screaming bloody murder, her friend tells her to quiet down, to which Bo responds, “If I’m not louder, no one will hear me,” pretty much summing up the portrayal of women in Hong Kong film and in Patrick Kong films in particular. Bo, like many of her counterparts, is adept at pouting, whining, and wailing, anything to keep the attention on herself. Only after she’s thrown a tantrum and succeeded in emotionally isolating herself does she have stirrings of remorse.

It’s a wonder then how anyone can tolerate her and not at all surprising when one relationship after another falls away. She has a cynical outlook on love to start with, viewing it as nothing more than a game. On the rare occasion she does develop a mild attachment, she can just as easily swap one guy for another when things turn sour. More troublesome is her relationship with her best friend, Ching Ching (Linda Chung), whose marriage to Wing (Sammy Leung) opens the movie. When Bo finds out that Wing is having an affair with a mutual friend, she keeps the sweet and innocent Ching Ching in the dark. She chooses instead to chastise and nag Wing when they are alone, which is probably not what you want your best friend and cheating husband to do.

By movie’s end, Bo has a lot to atone for, but she’s burned so many bridges that a genuine sorry may not be enough. She revisits Ryan (Alex Fong), one of her 50+ exes, and finds herself developing feelings for him. You know this may be something real because she actually feels bad for using him. At the same time, she is keen on Hong Kong’s youngest doctor, Joe (Hins Cheung), from the earlier detergent episode. Does she make the right choice in the end?

It’s a little more complicated than that, and not because love is that way. Director-writer Kong seems to think about romance in the same way one thinks about a churlish ex. In this and many other films, everyone gets played; it’s just a matter of degree. But it’s hard to trust such characters, however likeable or unlikeable they may be, when their primary function is to prove a point. Set aside for a moment that the acting is sub-par. No amount of drama training can save a film that is so dependent on gimmicks. Kong isn’t interested in reality-based nuance. His characters rarely have a sense of the accidental or the foolish that gnaw at real relationships until they snap or fray. Instead, he is more invested in looking clever by intersecting so many stories so that he can spring a surprise and tightly wound ending, one that comes with a giant billboard proclaiming some truth about love. And in this case, he simply wants to say that “love is not all around.” Shame.

“Powerless” (無能為力) – by Hins Cheung.

“Two Worlds” (兩個世界) – by Terry Wu.

Released: 2007
Prod: Paco Wong 黃柏高
Dir: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Writer: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Stephy Tang 鄧麗欣; Alex Fong 方力申; Linda Chung 鍾嘉欣; Hins Cheung 張敬軒; Terry Wu 胡清藍; Miki Yeung 楊愛瑾; Sammy Leung 森美; Christy Wong 王一冰; Kwan Ho-Yeung 關浩揚; Leung Ho-Gai 梁浩楷; Cindy Lee 李思雅; Angela Au 區文詩; Kary Ng 吳雨霏; Philip Ng 伍允龍; William Chow 周子濠; Harriet Yeung 楊詩敏; Terence Tsui 徐志雄; Mimi Chu 朱咪咪
Time: 101 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014