Film review: Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong – talky romance doubles as love letter to city
Real-life couple add sparks to a perceptive look at courtship that pokes innocuous fun at expat stereotypes and enchants with its display of Hong Kong’s captivating night lights
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong has the slenderest of plot lines, sandwiched between touristy snapshots scored to jaunty music – but even that tacky foundation proves insufficient to derail this romantic two-hander, which thrives on its leading duo’s chemistry. It probably helps that Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg – having appeared together in two other recent films, A Year and Change and Flock of Dudes – are a real-life couple who just tied the knot in October.
The Hong Kong-set film begins with two strangers outside a bar on Hollywood Road, Central. Ruby (Chung) is a Los Angeles-based toy designer on a work trip to Hong Kong. Josh (Greenberg) is a New York native who has spent the past 10 years here, slaving away as a banker while slowly writing up his obviously semi-autobiographical novel. Since she’s hopelessly lost and he, for some reason, can’t wait to get away from the occasion, Josh offers to take Ruby to her destination, Lan Kwai Fong.
The pair’s initial exchange is hackneyed yet adorably awkward. Local viewers could also have fun with an in-joke planted by the first-time writer-director Emily Ting: it would soon transpire that Josh is taking a big detour to avoid Lan Kwai Fong. This 20-minute opening segment finally grinds to a halt when, after one drink together, Josh breaks the news that he must get back to his girlfriend’s birthday party – the first of only a handful of surprises in this cute and chatty romance.
The story picks up a year later when the two coincidentally meet again on a ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui. While Ruby has since relocated to Hong Kong for a one-year job transfer, Josh has quit his banking position to pursue a writing career. As the obviously smitten pair wander to Mong Kok and then back to Central, becoming Facebook friends along the way, the questions become: Would they go so far as to change their relationship status? Or would it prove too complicated?
Comparisons can reasonably be made with Before Sunrise (1995), and the characters’ reading material should give a hint as to the far less erudite disposition of Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong: while Celine, in the Richard Linklater film, carries a Georges Bataille book with her on the train, Josh is reading Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood on the ferry. That Ting’s film didn’t end up a pointless ramble, like Chris Evans’ New York-set Before We Go (2014), is testament to her eye for cultural nuances.
Here’s a perceptive film that has the self-awareness to make innocuous fun of the much stereotyped expat experience: from the ubiquity of white men working in finance (and their Asian girlfriends) to the casual reference to having never travelled to Kowloon. While its premise of having two characters chatting spontaneously on superficial subjects may not appeal to everyone, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is at least sure to enchant with its lavish display of the city’s alluring night lights.
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong opens on April 14
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