Yes it has been a quiet few days here at ThingsFallApart Towers, which means lots more reviews than normal. Feast or famine I guess. This time I will look at another Jonnie To helmed Rom-Com – could we have another “Turn Left Turn Right” to drool over, or something less satisfying? Answer will be found below!
In “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, we meet the rather lovely Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan), a mainland girl who has moved with her boyfriend to Hong Kong and works at some high level banking job. Sadly we find they have broken up (he seems to have married another girl who has a chid on the way), and she has been left with a load of his possessions, including DVDs, Action Figures, 100’s of Alcohol miniatures, an annoying alarm clock and a rather ugly (but expensive) Frog. All is not lost, as she has attracted the attention of a rather handsome man (Louis Koo) called Cheng, who owns the office opposite hers. They flirt through these windows via pictures made of post-its and simple magic tricks. They arrange to meet up, but Cheng has accidently attracted the attentions of another girl during these sessions, and he ends up meeting her instead. Don’t feel too sorry for him though…. our Cheng is a bit of a playboy. At the same time, Zixin meets a rather friendly street drunk, Fang (Daniel Wu), who helps her get rid of her ex-boyfriends possessions (and takes ownership of the Frog). No ordinary tramp though is Fang – turns out he is actually a talented architect who seems to have lost his mojo (he still has a rather fabulous apartment). Then the Lehmann’s brothers collapse happens, Cheng loses his company, Zixin forgets to meet Fang, and the clock shifts forwards three years. Turns out, in those three years, Cheng has recovered enough to become the CEO of Zixin’s company, and Fang has got his life back on track, and ends up owning Cheng’s old offices. Zixin meets them all anew – and a love triangle blossoms. But who will she choose – the handsome and rich playboy, or the caring and sentimental architect?
OK, so this is a pretty lightweight romantic comedy, which should be pretty awful. These are all rich, happy, successful people, and frankly most of us couldn’t care a jot about them. It is full of silly co-incidence, and people being able to make grand gestures that are frankly just not realistic. But guess what? For me it utterly works. And for 3 good reasons.
Firstly, we have some good acting. Gao Yuanyuan isn’t someone I have seen much of before, but she is an engaging and fun leading lady who is able to display a wide range of emotions. Daniel Wu puts in one of his better roles, very understated (he is so much better when he isn’t called on to overact). The real star is Louis Koo (and how many films have I seen him in this year?). You should hate his character. He is rich and arrogant. He is manipulative and can’t keep his trousers on. Yet, there is a certain charm about him, and in a later scene, you actually find out, despite his faults, he is utterly sincere in his love for Zixin.
Secondly we have the flirting via Windows. This is utter genius, It’s light and playful, and just makes so much sense.
And finally, you know what – it’s just a feel good film. There is not really any doubt which guy she will choose, but the fun of it is seeing her get there. Not only that, but it manages to not demonise Cheng, even though in most other films he would be reprehensible. One scene in the film, when he drags Zixin to a restaurant, shows a side to him that will actually get some of the audience on his side.
It does have issues. Frankly, it really is hard to totally believe in Wu’s character. Maybe he just made a bad drunk, but he probably is not quite as down on his luck as appearances show. And once he is back to himself, he really is a little too good to be true. I would have liked to have seen some fault with him. The film is in Mandarin, which affects me in no way, but I suspect it did put off the Hong Kong audience (and explains some of the lacklustre reviews I have seen out there). In fact the film is very obviously made for the Mainland audience, it shows very aspirational lifestyles, which some might find hard to stomach.
It is beautifully directed, great performances, and a little touch of unique magic. The music is lovely too. You know this is coming but… Highly Recommended!