I would have been satisfied with a Return to Me remake. The 2000 American romantic comedy is about a woman with a heart transplant who begins dating her donor’s husband. It’s a stretch but believable within its own narrative boundaries. All About Love has the slight beginnings of a similar story. Dr. Ko (Andy Lau) and Tze-Ching (Charlene Choi) are happily married, though he doesn’t spend as much time as he should with her owing to his work. She dies within the first five minutes of the film, and Sam (Charlie Yeung) receives Tze-Ching’s heart. After her husband abandons her, she begins seeing Dr. Ko.
Except it’s not so simple and not nearly as romantic. In fact, large chunks of the movie don’t make sense and are downright creepy. For one, you have to believe that Andy Lau and Charlene Choi are a loving couple, despite their Woody Allen-esque age gap. Everything stems from the fact that this doctor is mad for his barely out of uni wife who whines and can’t enunciate (see every Twins-era Choi film).
If you buy that, you still have to accept that six years later Dr. Ko, now a forlorn paramedic, happens to attend to Sam when she gets in a car accident and somehow senses that she is the recipient of his wife’s heart. How does he know this? Probably super-psychic powers; he performs magic tricks after all. He confirms this with her doctor (Anthony Wong), thereby breaking all sorts of patient confidentiality codes. Due to his connection with Sam/Tze-Ching/Tze-Ching’s heart, he essentially stalks her as a way of reconnecting with his wife. He even goes so far as to break into her house and thumb through her diary.
The most bizarre element of this story though is that Sam’s husband Derek is a dead ringer for Dr. Ko. In other words, two Andy Laus for the price of one. Like Dr. Ko, Derek is successful at his job in the modeling industry and also doesn’t have much time to spare for his wife. Unlike Dr. Ko, however, Derek has a temper and may not be a committed husband; he also sports sleazy facial hair. His actions quite literally cause Sam heartache. The good doctor sees a chance to atone for his past and passes himself off as Derek, a move that has fueled many a serial killer film.
I hesitate to laugh at or so roundly trounce a story that is this committed to loss and grief. Dr. Ko is punishing in his solitude, refusing to take any pleasure in life, even after Tze-Ching’s parents (Hui Siu-Hung and Gigi Wong) have moved on. But in addition to the improbabilities of the script, the direction is just too heavy handed to nurture any genuine feelings. Lau treats the movie like an extended music video and carries his character on the intensity of his sad, distant stares. Choi’s youthful effervescence adds some joy, but that is offset by Yeung, who limps around like a perpetually wronged and helpless woman.
The directors don’t give their characters much chance to open up and instead weigh them down with oppressive camerawork. They keep the lens moving with excessive pans, but images crawl numbingly across the screen, often accompanied by mawkish piano strains. The narrative is also interrupted by shots that don’t mean anything (mostly of water dripping in slow motion and Lau’s latest edition CYMA timepiece) except poor attempts to add visual flair. All About Love should be used as an example of how overwhelming and ineffective a film can be when every frame is seared with pain and regret. Sometimes a lighter touch can be far more profound.
“Say You Love Me Once More” (再説一次我愛你) by Andy Lau:
Prod: Daniel Yu 余偉國; Yan Min-Jun 閻敏軍
Dir: Daniel Yu 余偉國; Lee Kung-Lok 李公樂
Writer: Daniel Yu 余偉國; Lee Kung-Lok 李公樂
Cast: Andy Lau 劉德華; Charlie Yeung 楊采妮; Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍; Allen Lin 林依輪; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Gigi Wong 黃淑儀; Lam Suet 林雪; Amber Xu 胥力文; Sasha Hou 侯莎莎
Time: 87 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong