Love is like waiting for a bus, we’re told in Your Place or Mine. You allow one to pass because it’s too crowded and watch another go by because there isn’t air conditioned. A few more come and go until you finally settle on that perfect one, only to find out that it’s heading in the opposite direction. Maybe you were better off walking.
Long-winded similes aside, this movie is a pleasant detour from the average romance. It’s an unhurried look at love that smudges some of the clean lines one expects in a film about finding and keeping partners. Rather than pinning down a standard trajectory for its two protagonists, the script gives its leads a gentle push to start off and then steps back as the characters feel their way in and out of relationships.
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Alex Fong Chung-Sun share leading man duties as friends Suk-Wai and Patrick. This approach takes the critical eye away from a primary character and allows both to develop independently. Neither claim the moral high ground and their missteps, and occasional successes, run better parallel.
When the movie begins, Suk-Wai, an image consultant to models and starlets, finds himself plastered over the tabloids again after another breakup with a client. And he doesn’t seem to have learned any lesson when he starts to fall for his latest discovery, a newly arrived Mainlander named Ah Yu (Vivian Hsu). Though Suk-Wai has garnered a pretty string of ex-girlfriends, he appears decent enough, Tony Leung’s mopey, pleading eyes perhaps the cause. Alex Fong, on the other hand, gives Patrick a convincing playboy edge, and we quickly figure out the game he’s playing, even if his loyal girlfriend doesn’t.
By degrees, they become different though not necessarily better men. Suk-Wai gets entangled with his new boss Vivian (Ada Choi) and seeks the wisdom of his father (Spencer Lam), who happens to be a philanderer. His nonchalance at his indiscretions and his preference for football metaphors is not the guidance Suk-Wai needs. Leung handles with usual deft the nuances of his character, someone who is unimpressed by the unfaithful ways of those around him but who could use some discipline and clarity in his own relationships. The actor also brings the right touch of humor to the role and keeps the film from descending into a trite comedy romance.
Hsu and Choi have a rougher go. Ah Yu’s defining characteristic is an ingenue’s cuteness, which Hsu easily pulls off. But it takes her the length of the movie to emerge from the rough sketches that writer-director James Yuen has drawn. Choi does a better job with Vivian, though she is a character also given to bold strokes. Suk-Wai’s boss is a tall bottle of fierce, a no-nonsense businesswoman who, in the calculus of things, gets mistaken for a lesbian. This exhausted image gets played for laughs.
Patrick and his longtime friend Mei (Suki Kwan) have the most satisfying relationship in this movie, with credit to both actors. Years of comfort allow Patrick to be vulnerable and open to Mei in a way that he never is with his sexual pursuits. Her loyalty, meanwhile, brings with it some articulated feelings for him. Kwan keeps Mei from becoming that desperate woman who is only ever an observer and an accomplice to her friend’s liaisons. The two of them share a real and enviable friendship that rings with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of the film, Patrick begins to appreciate the significance of this. Fong does a good job capturing his character’s sudden inability to find true love, his loss at how to unlearn bad habits and to go after something more lasting. This is the real pleasure of the movie; it’s seeing relationships as they are – the frustrating inability to resolve problems, the stalled moments just before or after a coupling, the disappointment.
Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: James Yuen 阮世生
Writer: James Yuen 阮世生
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Alex Fong Chung-Sun 方中信; Vivian Hsu 徐若瑄; Suki Kwan 關秀媚; Ada Choi 蔡少芬; Spencer Lam 林尚義; Eileen Tung 童愛玲; James Yuen 阮世生
Time: 101 min
Country: Hong Kong