PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am


Starring: Vicki Zhao Wei, Shu Qi, Ethan Ruan Ching-tien, Mark Chao Yu-ting
Directed by: Doze Niu Chen-zer
Category: IIA (Mandarin)

The political systems of Taiwan and the mainland may be vastly different, but when it comes to cringeworthy celluloid depictions of love, both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same facile family.

Or so it seems with Love, Taiwanese director Doze Niu Chen-zer's trio of flimsily connected romantic tales set in Taipei and Beijing that, like its cast, is lovely to look at but, like the characters they portray, emotionally shallow.

Two stories take place in Taipei, but it is a city devoid of the personality the director invested in his 2010 mega-hit Monga. Instead, Love's Taipei is a blandly contrived never-neverland in which stuttering hotel employee Kuan (Ethan Ruan) becomes intimate with Zoe (Shu Qi, with Ruan, above), a world-weary glamour girl far out of his league as the mistress of crass gallery owner Lu (Niu).

Incredibly, Lu's daughter, Ni (Amber Kuo Tsai-chieh), is best friends with Kuan's sister, Yi-chia (Ivy Chen Yi-han), who must face the growing consequences of a brief encounter with Ni's film-director boyfriend (Eddie Peng Yu-yen).

Meanwhile, Lu's friend and the object of Zoe's desire, Mark (Mark Chao Yu-ting), becomes entangled with Jin (Vicki Zhao Wei), an obnoxiously feisty Beijing real estate agent and single mum. Mark and Jin both happen to belong to the Manchu minority, a potentially interesting note that ends up barely explored. Rather, simplistic fuel is added to their initial enmity in that Jin's cloying son, Doudou (Lin Muran), is the offspring of a mysterious Taiwanese who absconded before the boy was born, making his annoyingly scatterbrained mother wary of anyone from the island.

Beijing is painted in the same generic manner as Taipei, save for a public security officer (Wang Jingchun) whose down-to-earth quality almost transcends the patently phoney situations in which he is placed. Woe to Doudou, though, who will probably need years of therapy to cope with the lies fed him by the so-called grownups. Not that the oldsters couldn't do with some guidance.The plights of Yi-chia and Jin, in particular, beg the question of whether safe sex and birth control are concepts alien to 21st century Chinese urban sophisticates.

The sugary sentimentality in the script, co-written by the director, Iris Tseng Li-ting and Wang Qian, is not necessarily detrimental to a Valentine's Day release (in Taiwan and on the mainland, that is; in Hong Kong, it's more than a week late).

Technically proficient with attractive visuals and an irritatingly treacly soundtrack, the production grows increasingly frustrating to watch as the viewer comes to realise how Love's collection of supposed adults has very little idea of what love is all about.

Love opens today