Juliet in Love (2000)

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/24/2007
Summary: no coke, no hope...

judy (sandra ng), works at a restaurant, supporting her aged grandfather (heung hoi); after suffering from illness and being deserted by her husband, he is her only family. jordan is a chancer, with a penchant for gambling, although his losses mean that he's in trouble with his bookmaker. through their relationships with n.t. on (simon yam), a triad boss, the two get thrust together with a young baby and a relationship begins to blossom...

wilson yip, a director with an extremely eclectic catalogue of work, turns his hand to crafting an understated, romantic drama, laced with tragedy. successfully avoiding melodrama, the film focusses on its characters, building up a occasionally funny, sweet and tragic film. as well as a restrained script, the film owes a lot to its leads.

francis ng is always a favourite and sandra ng is, perhaps, my favourite hong kong actress. here, both francis and sandra put in performances that perfectly match the tone of the film and, quite simply, they shine. simon yam and heung hoi also make solid contributions.

good stuff.

Reviewed by: Chinoco
Date: 08/13/2006

I'm not really into romantic movies or slow-moving dramas. Based on that, and after reading some reviews, I thought that it would be safe to assume that this movie was not for me. I was wrong about that however.

Briefly, the film is about a low-level Triad member (Francis Ng) and his involvement with a waitress (Sandra Ng). Meeting accidentally in a restaurant and later and at a hospital; fate brings them together when they are asked to watch over a Triad leader's (Simon Yam) baby. Thrown into the mix are Francis's gambling debts, and Sandra's seriously ill grandfather.

Although at times the pace drags a little; I found the reason why I liked this film was because of the well written characters. You really care for them, and want them to succeed. Special note should be given for the acting of Francis and Sandra. Simon Yam's role is fairly small, but is crucial to the plot and he delivers an excellent performance.

The cinematography and directing is top notch as well. The movie manages to set a very moody tone and sustains it throughout.

One thing that puzzled me however was the motivation of Francis Ng's character. I found it curious as to why he ended up spending so much time with Sandra and gave up his old life so easily. Apart from the opening scenes Francis Ng's girlfriend is never seen or mentioned again! A more detailed explanation as to exactly how Francis lost so much money, and was indebted to Simon would have been nice as well.

All in all, if you’re not disappointed by the lack of action for a Triad film- you will enjoy this movie.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/25/2003
Summary: Not what i was expecting..........

With so many good reviews i had to go see what was the deal!!

With a triad characters involved, i expected a little action which did not occur. But that does not matter.

The movie is character driven, focusing mainly on Francis Ng. It just goes to show some people never learn there lesson. I guess people who are irresponsible exist and thats what makes this movie good. These are realistic characters with problems. Sandra Ng played her role well while Simon Yam almost was more like a cameo than a supporting role. Look out for Eric Kot too who seems to be getting away from his annoying usual persona and taking more serious roles which he is suited too

Sounded like i liked this movie? Well it did tell a good story but i felt the many scenes where the characters do minimal things like eating, i had to fast forward. Sure it was used to create atmosphere and shows a sign of normalility, but i had no patience for it. While you can relate to the characters i didn't seem to care too much about them either.

It's a above average drama which may lead you sad at the end but it had little effect on me (i am not cold hearted by the way!!) Still one of the better movies of 2000


Reviewed by: future113
Date: 08/30/2001
Summary: Shocked!!!!

Wow, I wasn't expecting such a great movie. Stellar performances from Francis and Sandra NG (not related) and very artistic film work by Wilson Yip. A tragic story about love, hope and life. Since previous reviews below have already described the plot I won't go into any detail about the movie. I'd give this movie a 9.2/10. I would definitely have this one in my hk collection.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/18/2001
Summary: Almost unbelievably good

It takes a very brave director to tell almost the whole story just with pictures. There's plenty of dialogue in the film, but most of it is incidental. The real story is told with the camera and the cast's facial expressions. FRANCIS NG and SANDRA NG both give exceptional performances, and SIMON YAM is extremely good in his role too. The story is a very human story of relationships. I first saw this and ITMFL in the same week at the cinema, and JIL blew ITMFL away for me by tackling some similar films and presentation methods, but creating 10 times more feeling and involvement. Here's hoping nobody gives Wilson Yip a big-budget action script for his next film, because he's at his best with much smaller more personal films like this and BULLETS OVER SUMMER.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 10/30/2000

A small masterpiece. Wilson Yip gets stronger and stronger, playing with genres, building fresh new movies out of seemingly tired conventions. Great performances by Sandra Ng (HK film award winner this year?) and Francis Ng anchor this romance/triad film that has so much going for it, it over-delivers. Suffused with feeling, graced with gloriously creative cinematography, lighting, and a superb score. That the HK film industry can come up with this rich drama in the same year as JIANG HU: THE TRIAD ZONE, NEEDING YOU, and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE hints that it may be well on the way to an artistic (if not commercial) revival.

Reviewed by: meixner
Date: 08/30/2000
Summary: A well designed but unsuccessful tearjerker

Two lonely outcasts are united in caring for a baby temporarily left in their care, and find that they have created a family. But their happiness can not last

A tragic and touching story with excellent actors with a quality script that somehow manages to fall flat. The camerawork and editing are a little too showy and the direction too self consciously artistic to produce a humane film. A valiant but an unsuccessful attempt.

Reviewed by: toto63
Date: 07/23/2000
Summary: life is tragedy?

of course that is: at last all we have to die, but this movie is theother side of life: light, romantic, funny.
Love can happen.

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 05/26/2000
Summary: A Breath of Fresh Air

Just when you lose all hope about the state of Hong Kong films, along comes a breath of fresh air with "Juliet in Love." Sandra Ng and Francis Ng offer a great example of a movie that harkens back to actors with a good script. Director Wilson Yip has good command of the material. He found some new ways to keep this tragic love story fresh. His use of pans and slow-motion to dramatically heighten the tension in several scenes were well executed. His camera movement was efficient and not overdone.

The acting by all in this film is first rate. Francis is getting better with each role. Even though he plays another triad wannabe, his range is becoming more nuanced and subtle. Sandra, too, matches Francis in the scenes they share. They both gave understated performances that helped to get over the cliched moments in Matt Chow's script.

The human interest in this film was more than welcome. The prologue and the epilogue were nice touches, where Sandra buys soda from an old lady. Overall a very heartfelt character-driven movie that rises head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd this year.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 04/22/2000
Summary: Outstanding!

Finally! So many poor releases, it was getting depressing. JIL, however, is the first possible contender (that I've seen) for the best of 2000. While the story doesn't offer many surprises, Francis and Sandra are excellent, and Wilson Yip continues to improve. While his approach here isn't quite as "different" as in Bio-Zombie or Bullets Over Summer, it's his most polished work yet. This is probably my favorite "romantic" movie to come along since "Comrades, Almost A Love Story," and I absolutely recommend it.

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 03/24/2000

One of the best Cantonese movie titles in a long time, Juliet in Love's Chinese moniker doesn't fit the film. Literally translated as "Juliet and Leung San-pok", the names are a reference to the major players in two of the world's most famous literary tragedies, Romeo and Juliet and Butterfly Lovers ("Leung San-pok and Chuk Ying-tai" in Cantonese). With Sandra Ng Kwun-yu and Francis Ng Chen-yu in the leads, one anticipates a story in which a Westernized Chinese girl falls in love with a more traditional Chinese lad. Add to this the eccentricity of the title and the fact that Ms Ng is primarily known as a comedienne, the viewer cannot help but have expectations of a farce.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Director Wilson Yip Wai-sun and screenwriter Matt Chow Hoi-kwong have concocted an offbeat Hong Kong tragedy dealing with life and death and other weighty issues. And while the themes are certainly interesting, the finished picture is far from successful no matter what its title might be.

The film's Juliet and Leung San-pok are not upper crust teenagers in the first flush of youthful romance. Judy (Sandra Ng) and Jordan (Francis Ng) are thirtysomething losers belonging to Hong Kong's underclass. Judy has the thankless job of receptionist in a Yuen Long restaurant. Her life off the job is just as dreary. Judy's only living relative is her diabetic grandfather, with whom she has a very close relationship that is one of the most poignant aspects of the film. Judy's husband abandoned her after she got breast cancer, an event that happened before the movie began.

Jordan is also alone in the world, his family having died in a car crash. He is a petty hood who gets on the bad side of triad boss "New Territories On" (Simon Yam Tat-wah). The film's first half-hour gets bogged down in the usual gangster picture cliches. Things starting livening up about 35 minutes into the proceedings, when Boss On's wife explodes upon discovering her husband's mistress and infant son. In order to pay off a debt, Jordan ends up becoming the baby's caretaker, and he enlists the aid of Judy.

Judy and Jordan suddenly are heads of a family. The theme of society's misfits creating bonds that are stronger than the conventional urban household is a favorite of the director and writer. It was the focus of their last film, Bullets Over Summer (1999), in which a couple of policemen (including Francis Ng) formed a "family" with a senile woman and two outcast young ladies. In Juliet in Love, the family is less convincing. Even though the responsibility is primarily Jordan's, Judy ends up doing much of the dirty work and one never really understands why she puts up with it. Of course, her yearning for a child and a husband-a family-answers for a lot, but still doesn't explain why after a full exhausting day at work she doesn't insist on hubby cleaning up baby's excrement and all of the other delightful chores associated with child rearing.

There are some nice directorial touches. The filmmakers use the inevitable musical montage to do more than regurgitate "meaningful moments" of the movie's first hour, as is so often the case in Hong Kong pictures. The camera zooms in on extreme close ups of the heads of On and Jordan, emerging to reveal what's on their minds, be it On's philandering wife or Judy at her job. The Yuen Long environment is also portrayed succinctly. From one angle, Judy's home looks the very picture of idyllic rural living. Change the angle, and the polluting factories and drab public housing blocks that have blotted the New Territories landscape are revealed.

Sandra Ng delivers what is certainly the subtlest performance of her career. Someday perhaps she will be handed a script worthy of her talents. Francis Ng is once again called upon to play a typical Francis Ng role, and his shtik is beginning to get tiresome.

Despite all that Juliet in Love has going for it, the picture gets so mired in the tedium of its gangster genre conventions that the themes come across as forced. It all boils down to the script. Loads of good ideas amount to very little without a pithy screenplay, the one element that is lacking in 99% of local productions. Juliet in Love, while deserving credit for trying to go beyond mainstream Cantonese triad fare, isn't the breakthrough it might have been.

This review is copyright (c) 1999 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No prt of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner. This review appears in HKMDB by kind permission from Paul Fonoroff.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 02/26/2000
Summary: Wilson and Francis' another Good Work!

Considering its cast, it is difficult to believe that "Juliet In Love" was going to be a tragic love story. Its stars, Sandra NG Kwan-yu and Francis NG Chun-yu, are not performers that seem suitable for a romance, and they are backed up by LAU Yee-tat and Eric KOT Man-fai, two comic actors not known for tragedy. However, since the cast appears strong and the film is directed by Wilson YIP Wai-shun who was responsible for the critically well-received "Bullet Over Summer", there should be a great deal of interest in this movie.

Jordon (Francis NG) is a third-class triad member in Kowloon. One day, he takes his friend LAM Ka-wah (LAU Yee-tat) to have dinner in a restaurant in Yuen Long. There Jordon meets Judy (Sandra NG), a woman in her thirties who has suffered from breast cancer. Her husband abandoned her, and now she is only has her grandfather. One day when LAM went back to Yuen Long, he met N.T. On (Simon YAM), the head of a triad, and he asked to settle his loans. Subsequently LAM calls Jordon for help. However, while Jordon is on the way, Judy's grandfather is seriously injured in a traffic accident. Jordan brings Judy to the hospital. Their relationship begins . . .

"Juliet in Love" is not a story about Juliet and Romeo or Butterfly Lovers, but the film places its characters into a romantic situation like that. Both Jordon and Judy are suffering because of their pasts and their pains. Judy is suffering from the lack of confidence after the operation that caused the removal of one of her breasts. Jordon is suffering from being looked down upon by the family and because he is alone. These two tragic characters get together and start a romance with difficulties. That is what "Juliet in Love" is to deliver to its audience.

This movie is another collaboration between director Wilson YIP and screenwriter Matt CHOW. They are experienced in picking up to-the-point situations. The scene during which Jordon is asked to hold On's concubine 's baby in order to escape a disclosure by his first-wife is fascinating. On one hand, Jordan is On's enemy, but he has been asked to help hide the identity of the child. The plot even delivers a ridiculous but funny result -- Jordon and Judy are going to take care of On's baby! The whole subplot is well-organized with an accurate punch line.

Most in the audience will be checking out the chemistry between Sandra NG and Francis NG whose characters must take care of the son of Francis' enemy N.T. On. Judy is a very normal character while Jordan is very crazy. It is not easy to imagine how they could fall in love. In fact, the love between is not clearly developed. Instead, the movie brings uses the situations of dealing with the baby and Judy's grandfather. In this way the filmmakers avoid an sentimental ploys in presenting the couple's love. On the other hand, the romance is shown through more casual ways, such as the use of keys and the difficulties that come with handling a baby.

Both Sandra NG and Francis NG are good in the movie. However, Francis NG is more impressive because he makes Jordan different from other romantic characters or triad figures. Sometimes we wonder if Francis' acting has not strayed from his style in "Young and Dangerous." This time, however, his portrayal of Jordan is much more thoughtful yet it is clear that he is in pain. Francis' performance brings out a more complex, contradictory character.

Secondary characters are not very important in this movie. Simon YAM and LAU Yi-tat are used to establish the tragic background of Jordon. Eric KOT portrays the driving master FONG, who teaches Judy how to drive. His character has two functions -- setting up some of the punch lines and indirectly communicating the relationship of Judy and Jordan. His first function is not as important since audiences are prepared to hear the actor's punch lines, but his second function is essential, especially since there is not much other detail about the relationships of Judy and Jordan.

As with Wilson YIP's previous movie, "Juliet in Love" is a movie that focuses on a situation, but here there is a larger scale. Wilson's direction, Matt's script, and Francis' performance are continuously impressive. We look forward to seeing Wilson's next production.

Written by Ryan Law, from Hong Kong Movie DataBase, on 26 February, 2000.