Film review: To Love or Not to Love – Venus Wong, Edward Ma in largely harmless Hong Kong romantic comedy
Part campus rom com, part cliched relationship drama, and with some zany turns by Hong Kong comedy veterans, Crosby Yip’s film is a breath of fresh air for audiences used to Patrick Kong’s noxious fare
It’s probably useful to know that writer-director Crosby Yip Hei was just 23 years old when he made this movie.
A sweet and silly campus romantic comedy which morphs halfway into a grown-up relationship drama drowning in embarrassing gender clichés, To Love or Not to Love does play like the brainchild of a Hong Kong teen who has had a limited perspective of the adult world. It’s still a better love story than anything Patrick Kong created early in his career, however.
In a similar fashion to Taiwanese blockbuster You Are the Apple of My Eye and Hong Kong’s own She Remembers, He Forgets , Yip’s crowd-pleasing film starts with the budding romance between innocent high-school student Casey (Venus Wong Man-yik, Good Take Too ) and her troublemaking classmate Elton (Edward Ma Chi-wai, PG Love ).
Despite their wealth gap and contrasting personalities, the pair remain an item after Casey starts college and Elton turns to odd jobs – until they break up abruptly when Elton is caught cheating. The story then picks up four years later, when Casey has, rather unconvincingly, become a famous relationship guru, and Elton is suddenly determined to win her back.
Peppered with minute observations about the dating rituals of Hong Kong youth from a decade ago, To Love or Not to Love is mildly diverting in its first half, with comedy veterans such as Lam Suet, Kingdom Yuen King-tan and Gabriel Wong Yat-san (sporting a regrettable Hitler moustache) applying an extra dash of zaniness to the school scenes.
Both Wong and Ma look a bit old for their high-school parts, though it hardly matters when their relationship enters its uninspired third act; in fact, the less said about the annoying third wheel, a “Korean” stylist played by Guangdong-born pop singer Jason Fu Long-fei, the better. Social media personality To Siu-kiu adds a humorous touch of feminine excess as Casey’s best friend.
Aside from the brief moments in which it gets nasty with its objectification of women, To Love or Not to Love provides harmless fun for the most part. Even when he indulges his worst sensibilities, Yip is never intentionally condescending towards his audience. That may be cold comfort after years of smug and cynical rom-coms from Kong, but I’ll take it.
To Love or Not to Love opens on March 2
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