Love in a Puff
Starring: Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, Shawn Yue Man-lok
Director: Pang Ho-cheung
Category: III (Cantonese)
Tobacco dependence as a vehicle for fostering friendship may not at first gasp seem the most promising basis for a love story, but then again, director-writer Pang Ho-cheung has never been one to take an easy cinematic route. In relating the liaison between cigarette addicts Jimmy (Shawn Yue Man-lok) and Cherie (Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, above with Yue), the director removes the noxious premise's more toxic aspects to conjure a light drama void of pro-smoking vibes.
The narrative fails because it abandons the offbeat opening's initial promise: the first reel is by far the best, a genre-mixing episode combining horror and comedy that skilfully introduces the central hypothesis along with Jimmy and Cherie. Their acquaintanceship is a direct result of the 2007 non-smoking ordinance, which forced users out of enclosed spaces and onto pavements and alleys.
An unintended consequence is a mingling of diverse people who might otherwise never meet, as white-collar types (Roy Szeto Wai-cheuk and Charmaine Fong Ho-man), a restaurant hostess (Miao Feilin), a hotel bellboy (Cheung Tat-ming) and others gather for a puff, a bit of gossip and sometimes more. Thus the stage is set for adman Jimmy to meet cosmetics salesgirl Cherie, each on the verge of a relationship break-up and ripe for rebound romance.
The bulk of the picture takes place over the course of a week, but despite engaging performances by the principals, it is never made believable that the two could progress from infatuation to something more serious within such a brief time span. Cherie may indeed be so dissatisfied with her boyfriend of five years that she would give up the security of his comfortable, Mid-Levels flat for an uncertain abode, but the movie never makes it seem likely.
Neither are we privy to the charms Cherie must certainly possess to so swiftly make a conquest of a younger guy understandably averse to commitment after the very public revelation of the infidelity of sweetheart Vivian (Sharon Luk Sze-wan) via a telltale strand of gweilo pubic hair caught in her bracelet.
Such touches give the movie its Pang sparkle, but they come in diminishing supply as the film progresses. Love in a Puff ultimately does not invest the couple with enough substance for the entire affair to come across as much more than a series of stylishly blown smoke rings.
Love in a Puff opens today