Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (單身男女)

dont go breaking my heart


Don’t Go Breaking My Heart posits the essential question: would you rather choose a rascally Louis Koo or an idealized Daniel Wu? The answer takes a while to arrive at, and if you don’t mind waiting a few years (that’s movie years) to figure out the answer, you might enjoy this one. Then again, you might find such an extended romance plodding.

After an unexpected run-in with her ex-boyfriend and his pregnant wife, a distressed Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) nearly becomes roadkill. Luckily Qihong (Wu), a frustrated architect in the guise of an unkempt vagabond, stops downing his bottle of Jack long enough to sweep in and rescue her. She also catches the eye of Shen-Ran, who works in the building across from hers and, if we are honest, is kind of a stalker. When he notices her feeling down, he tries to cheer her up with post-it art on his window.

It’s a cute little plot device that will make the romantics sigh, but it causes a good deal of drama. Shen-Ran finally arranges a face-to-face meeting with Zixin but accidentally attracts a busty worker in the office below. Rather than excuse himself, he makes the first of many mistakes that leave Zixin wondering whether he’s worth it.

If this was real life, the problem would sort itself out. Now that Qihong has a new muse, he rededicates himself to designing award winning skyscrapers, and decides to shower and shave. He ends up being the perfect antidote for Shen-Ran’s sometimes childish and unfaithful behavior, and Zixin understandably begins to fall for him as well. Except Shen-Ran is still very much in her life. Girl’s in a pickle.

The unhurried pace at which the romance unfolds ends up being one of the strengths of the movie. The characters don’t feel pushed into a single trajectory but have room to occasionally pause and observe their relationships from the sidelines. When Zixin wants to step back from a suitor, it feels natural, just as it does when she thinks about rekindling her affair.

This should make the characters, or at least their actions, seem closer to reality, but they end up feeling less intimate despite the strong screen presence of all three actors. Gao is a sweet lead, and Koo and Wu likewise play to their strengths as the suave and gentle leading man, respectively. But the characters are never fully realized. Shen-Ran has a way with post-its, candles, and magic tricks, but I never really understood why Zixin loved him so much, especially with Qihong at her side. Was it because he was perfect almost to the point of dullness?

The skin-deep characterization in some ways matches the glamorous, cosmopolitan sheen of the film, made more for Mainland tastes than for Hong Kong. There’s nary a street shot without a label, and directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai seem to have gone with the rule that there’s no such thing as too much product placement. It’s a shame that brands and logos end up substituting for Hong Kong’s urban beauty, otherwise captured vibrantly and with crystal clarity by To and Wai.

Trailer featuring “Love is Very Simple” (愛很簡單) by David Tao:

Released: 2011
Prod: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Dir: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Yau Nai-Hoi 游乃海; Ray Chan 陳偉斌; Jevons Au 歐文傑
Cast: Louis Koo 古天樂; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Gao Yuanyuan 高圓圓; Lam Suet 林雪; Larisa 瑞莎; JJ Jia 賈曉晨; Terence Yin 尹子維; Selena Li 李詩韻; Iva Law 羅泳嫻
Time: 114 min
Lang: Cantonese, Mandarin, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014