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Chinese language cinema

Film review - All You Need Is Love: Richie Jen strokes his own ego with mediocre rom-com

Shu Qi's effortless charm not enough to save this badly written vehicle for Taiwanese singer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 8:01am

Should any pop star wish to stroke his own ego by leaping into the film director’s seat, he could at least handle it more subtly than Richie Jen Hsien-chi does with this fawning debut. While it might seem that all you need is love of your fans, it’s usually advisable for a movie to offer more than a mere set of stock emotions rolled out on autopilot.

Co-directed by Jen and Andy Luo An-de (Bang Bang Formosa) from an obvious script by Jen, Luo and five other writers, this scenic romantic comedy set in Penghu, Taiwan, paints a nauseatingly cute portrait of the singer-actor, who plays an obliviously fetching bachelor in line to conquer the heart of a beauty already set for an arranged marriage.

When Yeh Fen-fen (played by Shu Qi) visits Penghu to live out her deceased parents’ unfulfilled wish, the wealthy and seemingly fickle lady from China’s Shanxi Province realises she has unwittingly checked into the modest B&B guest house operated by Wu Sishan (Jen), who, at one point, declares himself a “handsome butler” with an alarming lack of irony.

But after her passport drops into the sea, Yeh is forced to prolong her stay at the inn, subsequently getting around to fall for Wu, meeting both his widowed father (Ti Lung) and an inexplicably adopted daughter in the process. Meanwhile, a plot to seize Wu’s property and a visit by Yeh’s worldly uncle further complicate matters – then again, see film title.

While Wu is affectionately described by his father as a “stupid but honest” guy, the character is really less simpleminded than he’s just very poorly written. In spite of the effortless charm that Shu brings with her, her part only reveals all the inconsistencies that come with being the projection of one man’s romantic fantasies. None of this feels authentic.

All You Need Is Love opens on September 10