Romancing in Thin Air
Starring: Louis Koo Tin-lok, Sammi Cheng Sau-man, Gao Yuanyuan
Director: Johnnie To Kei-fung
Category: I (Cantonese and Putonghua)
Released just in time for Valentine's Day, Johnnie To Kei-fung's latest film is an endearing tale about losing and then finding love in the high-altitude forests of southwestern Yunnan province. This snowbound love story, written and co-produced by To's long-time collaborator Wai Ka-fai, stars Louis Koo Tin-lok as Michael Lau, a glamorous superstar dumped by his actress bride-to-be (Gao Yuanyuan) when the latter's childhood sweetheart (Wang Baoqiang), a ragged miner, shows up at the altar.
This is the first of many surprising moments in Romancing in Thin Air. As Lau resorts to alcohol while licking his wounds, he ends up in a mountain lodge in Shangri-la run by Sue (Sammi Cheng Sau-man, above), who believes her husband Tian (Li Guangjie), who disappeared into the dense forest seven years ago, will return home someday.
Sue reluctantly takes the boozer in, and Lau gradually puts his life back together. It turns out that Sue is his biggest fan, and the two lonely hearts fall for each other. Yet Sue is unable to let go of the past, which comes back to haunt her when their relationship is about to blossom.
To, as his crime thrillers show, is a crafty storyteller who has a knack for great pacing. Yet with Romancing he punctuates the narrative with lengthy, wide-angle shots of the snowy landscape, the ethereal beauty of which allows the emotions to sink in.
For his part, Wai cooks up a crowd-pleasing love story that's crammed with twists and turns while offering a fatalistic yet redemptive view of love.
Koo is at his best, playing the lovelorn superstar with tenderness and humour. However, Cheng tries too hard and apparently has too much on her plate.
Her character is a steely woman, a grieving wife and a cheery girl next door all rolled into one, and there are times when her performance is less than coherent. Putting aside its minor flaws, the film benefits from a heavenly ending that is a love letter to cinema.
Romancing's message is that a love that defies all logic is, perhaps, the most logical and splendid thing in the world.
Romancing in Thin Air opens today