Love Lifting is the sort of movie you’d expect to end up in the bargain bin or on Lifetime’s afternoon lineup. It’s a feel good sports picture about a female weightlifter, played by former teen star Elanne Kong, who tries to make it to the top while raising her young family and overcoming illness. It screams sap rather than success, and yet the film is quietly affecting without giving itself over to melodrama.
A lot of credit goes to Kong, who wouldn’t be a casting director’s first choice for the role of a sturdy weightlifter. Somehow though, she manages to be a credible athlete, if on the thinner side, vying for Olympic glory. Her character Li Li makes an early exit from the sporting life after she finds out she has diabetes. But she doesn’t let the news weigh her down and instead focuses her energy on enjoying life and helping others. Kong is tremendously appealing in this role; Li Li has such an abundance of kindness that you only want good things to happen to her. At the same time, there’s nothing showy about her good nature, and the humility with which she expresses her feelings makes her even more likable.
Chapman To also does a fine job as Yung, Li Li’s devoted husband. Yung is one of those rare men in Hong Kong cinema, a stay-at-home dad who willingly puts his wife’s career first. He quietly bears the frustrations of being a single parent and the criticisms of those who mock his decision, knowing that everything he does is done out of love. Like his character, To has a strong presence without stealing the limelight, and he proves that for a chronic overactor, less can be a lot more.
I’m hard pressed to find drawbacks, but one might be a general lack of urgency in the film. For a sports movie, there isn’t really a major antagonist, which somewhat dampens the thrill of victory. Life, however, seems to be a fair enough obstacle for Li Li, and the movie chronicles a string of difficulties – financial, emotional, bureaucratic – she faces to get back in the game. Some might find the story low-key enough to dismiss entirely, but considering the bombast and inanity that usually graces the city’s screens, Love Lifting shows what a quality Hong Kong film can look like.
Trailer contains important spoiler that happens late in the movie.
“You Give Me Strength” (你給我力量) theme song by Elanne Kong:
Prod: Alvin Lam 林小強; Zhang Zhao 張昭; Ng Kin-Hung 伍健雄
Dir: Herman Yau 邱禮濤
Writer: Herman Yau 邱禮濤; Yeung Yee-Shan 楊漪珊; Wang Ya-Wen 王亞文
Cast: Elanne Kong 江若琳; Chapman To 杜汶澤; Tien Niu 恬妞; Jeremy Xu 徐正希; Feng Haoxu 馮昊旭; Zhang Songwen 張頌文; Huang Jianxin 黃建新; Jun Kung 恭碩良; Bob Lam 林盛斌; Terence Tsui 小肥
Time: 92 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong