Friday 28 August 2020

"Love You Forever" (Guardian 28/08/20)

Love You Forever **
Dir: Yoyo Yao. With: Hong-chi Lee, Yitong Li, Chao Zhang. 115 mins. Cert: PG

Drawn from a Zhang Zhi novella, yet taking its behavioural cues from the much-reproduced photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue, this goofy Chinese Valentine’s Day release hinges on the link between ballerina Qiu Qian (Yitong Li) and Lin (Hong-chi Lee), a greying coot who collapses backstage after one of her shows. Her interest is piqued after she enters his dishevelled lodgings and finds what’s apparently a novel based on her experiences; ours by the fact the old man is visibly a young actor glued into whiskery latex. Could this stranger bear some relation to Lin Ge, ballerina girl’s childhood sweetheart, who once pulled a magic watch from a lake? Why are we all suddenly thinking about The Cranberries again?

For up-and-coming director Yoyo Yao, it’s an opportunity to stage a cutesy romance within the framework of an initially baffling spatiotemporal mystery, as per Groundhog Day or the recent Palm Springs. Her flashbacks fall on the bland side, offering twentysomething high-schoolers, gifts of plum-infused water, and a dog called Niam Niam. Yao also can’t resist the Bollywood trope of a mid-film jolly to Europe – here, the Czech Republic – complete with variable turns from the local day players. More assured are those scenes in which Qiu Qian and pals wonder whether reading A Brief History of Time, rather than cheating on their physics finals, might have better prepared everybody for this eventuality. Stay in school, kids.

If it weren’t so inherently loopy, the premise – man spends decades transcribing a woman’s every movement – might seem questionable; it’s another of those romcoms that has to stage a charm offensive to nudge us all past some extremely committed stalking. Some of that charm comes from the appealing leads, playing out variations on the same characters: doubtless some relief for Li, seeing as Qiu Qian is introduced as a wide-eyed simpleton with amnesiac tendencies. Heart-on-sleeve hooey, it can’t fail to slap a smile on your face at some point, although that smile runs increasingly thin as the film nears the two-hour mark. There are stretches of second-half sap where your own, non-magic watch seems to stop dead. 

Love You Forever is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

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