Romance - love, laugh and cry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am

Good love stories should end with lovers being separated from each other. The story works even better if 'death do them part'.

Happy Birthday, starring actress Rene Liu Ruo-ying and heart-throb Louis Koo Tin-lok, fits the bill.

Koo and Liu play a couple who have been in love since their university days. For reasons that not even Aphrodite, the goddess of love, would be able to explain, they are caught in a vicious cycle: getting together, breaking up, reuniting, separating and dating each other again over the years.

But no matter what happens between them, they send each other a happy birthday message every year - the only link between them after Koo marries another woman and moves to Shanghai.

Fate seems to be the only way to explain a couple which seems to be made for each other, but somehow cannot be together. After all, only divorce lawyers can talk rationally about love. The rest of us blame the inexplicable on fate.

Fortunately, despite its moody subject, the film - directed by Jingle Ma Chor-shing, whose romance Fly me to Polaris brought sensitive souls and fans of Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi to tears - is surprisingly subtle.

The characters don't cry very often. They therefore have more time for hotpot dinners, allowing the audience more time to observe the dynamic between the characters.

They even have time for haircuts any time their heart is broken. They get styled by a cool hairdresser, their best friend, played by Lawrence Chow.

These moments of normality are refreshing. They give the simple love tragedy a sense of humour, and keep the story from being too sentimental.

These snippets of real life touch our heart and prevent us from being overburdened with sad emotions. Thanks to scriptwriter Sylvia Chang Ai-chia's feminine touch, the film is like a cup of green tea - bitter but refreshing.

As the curtain falls, and the lovers face their destiny, we are not left sobbing in the dark, but pondering the fleeting nature of love and life. And that's exactly what a good romance should do.