Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
The theme of torn between two lovers is explored three times in When I Fall in Love
With Both, in which a trio of thematically connected tales is related by director-writer Samson Chiu (who co-scripted with Siu Kwan-hung, author of the original story). As with the directors previous movies (Lost Boys in Wonderland, What a Wonderful World, Rose, etc.), Chiu brings to his work a sensitivity and an intellectuality that are rare in Hong Kong cinema, qualities that are both blessings and hindrances. Emotions are deeply felt but occasionally ponderous, dialogue laden with meaning but sometimes unnatural.
The advantage with omnibus movies is that if one tires of one chapter, there is another one about to take over. In the case of When I Fall in Love
, Chiu definitely saves the best for last in a yarn that occupies nearly half of the 110-minute running time. This is the Macau Story, in which Cece (Michelle Reis), an employee of a bridal salon, finds herself pregnant, unmarried, and not sure if the father is long-time beau Nam (Alex Fong Chung-sun) or colleague Tung (David Wu). As the young lady who decides to take responsibility for her life, Michelle Reis delivers one of the best performances of her career and makes up for the disastrous Island Tales earlier this year.
The behind-the-scenes look at cutthroat competition among wedding boutiques is surprisingly entertaining. Among the romanticand laugh-inducingthemes available for nuptial photographs are backdrops from such big and small screen hits as Titanic and the Chinese television series My Fair Princess. Such topical references make the story a small time capsule of Macau at the time of the Handover, an impression solidified by incorporating actual scenes of Millennium Eve celebrations in the historic town centre.
Law Ka-ying delivers a diverting portrayal of a skinflint boss. Alex Fong, usually confined to macho types, is permitted to display vulnerability as he faces unemployment and losing the love of his life. The romance between Tung and Cece is less successfully delineated, as one feels no sexual chemistry between the two. They seem like good, platonic friends, so it comes as something of a surprise when Tung kisses Cece and they end up in bed.
Despite all of the talk about who is responsible for the child, the film ignores one important point. It is Cece, after all, who voluntarily goes to bed with two men in two days and has unprotected sex with both. Whatever her views on abortion or single parenthood, she is woefully ignorant about sexually transmitted diseases, as are her two suitors.
The middle story, taking place in Hong Kong, is the weakest. Cherry (Theresa Lee) is about to marry her policeman boyfriend (James Chan) with whom she has been living for three years. When his twin brother (Sean Chan) shows up, she is thrown into emotional turmoil. Both brothers are attracted to her, and Cherrys ideal man would be a combination of the two.
The trouble is that one has little sympathy for Cherry. The elfin quality that worked so well for Theresa Lee in her debut film, Samson Chius What a Wonderful World (1995), is out-of-control here. She is always prancing, dancing, and, in short, obnoxious. It is one thing to be a lovable sprite, and another to act like an immature spoiled brat. While one agrees with the scripts sentiments concerning fate, the way in which fate takes its course comes across as forced.
The first story is set in Singapore. Lok-lok (Fann Wong) is a television news reporter who must choose between her handsome, articulate boss (James Lye) and a bumbling but sweet young baker, Sam (Peter Ho Yun-tung). Like the Macau Storys Tung and Cece, there is no sexual chemistry between Sam and Lok-lok, so the viewer might find it hard to believe they could be anything but good pals. On the other hand, the bakery background is quite fascinating, with Sam baking one specialty after another and Lok-lok so eloquent in her culinary appreciation that she should have been a food critic. (The Hong Kong story alone lacks such a professional backdrop, another factor in its failure to hold the viewer.)
Fann Wong and Peter Ho were previously teamed in last summers The Story of Jane and Sam. Their roles here are quite a departure, particularly that of Fann Wong. On the basis of these two movies, she demonstrates such a range of thespian skills that she may very well be the most accomplished young actress currently on the Hong Kong screen.
Cece, Lok-lok, and Cherry are connected via an internet chatroom, a method that is both up-to-the-minute and a bit too obviously a literary device. By the films end, the three love stories are resolved in manners which range from bittersweet to tragic, and director Chu has ably demonstrated there is a lot more to Hong Kong cinema than male-oriented action pictures.
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