Film Review: Break Up 100 transcends its romantic roots
BREAK UP 100
Starring: Ekin Cheng Yi-kin, Chrissie Chau Sau-na, Ivana Wong Yuen-chi
Director: Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui
Category: IIA (Cantonese and Putonghua)
In 1994, Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui directed a romantic comedy whose male star was 14 years older than the film's female lead. Two decades later, his first directorial effort since He & She has a lead actor who's 17 years the senior of the main actress.
Yet the age gap isn't very noticeable in Break Up 100 — in part because 46-year-old Ekin Cheng Yi-kin's character is a "kidult", and the one portrayed by 29-year-old Chrissie Chau Sau-na is the more mature of the duo.
In the kind of "opposites attract" pairing beloved of filmmakers, Sam (Ekin Cheng) and Nam (Chau) — who's referred to as Barbara in the English subtitles — have been romantically involved for eight years. Over this period, their relationship has had its ups and downs. To be precise, they've broken up 99 times already, often over extremely trivial matters, but got back together again 99 times as well.
Rather than do nothing but wait around fatalistically for break-up number 100 to occur, Sam and Nam go ahead and open a cafe, which they operate with the help of four young men (C AllStar) who are far better singers than waiters.
From day one, they attract quirky characters to the establishment, including a customer (Eric Kot Man-fai) who points out that its name has been mistakenly written out as LA Cafe Pillowcase in French (rather than "I love you", as Sam had intended) and Priscilla (Ivana Wong Yuen-chi), the friendly proprietor of the nearby Priscilla's Bakery.
But things only really pick up — for the cafe, and also the film — after Sam hits on the idea of having a "break-up mini-storage" facility for people to (temporarily) store evocative mementoes of past relationships.
Initially, it feels like director Cheng (who also co-produced and co-scripted) hadn't been confident enough in the ability of its two leads to carry the film and consequently decided to load it up with cameos galore (including ones by himself and Canto-pop star-actress Miriam Yeung Chin-wah) and cute devices.
While some of these embellishments are amusing, others come across as tiresome, and the subplot involving entertainment personality Chin Ka-lok is so strange that it is disconcerting. But when the mood turns more serious in the latter part of the film, things improve and feel admirably adult.
The recognition that relationships are about the little things in life, and far from always being just fun and games, helps this offering be more than a generic romantic comedy, even though that may have been the initial intention of the filmmakers.
Ekin Cheng is a serviceable leading man, and fellow singing star Ivana Wong — who only made her film debut earlier this year in Golden Chickensss — once again threatens to steal the show. But the revelation here is Chrissie Chau, who displays genuine acting ability in this movie, and not just the physical features that have made her a well-known pseudo-model.
Break Up 100 opens on August 1