Five Asian terminal illness films that came before More Than Blue
- Boy meets girl, boy (or girl) is diagnosed with deadly incurable disease, hides it from the other – it’s classic Asian cinematic fare
- Korean directors are the masters of the sub-genre, but Japanese, Chinese and Hong Kong filmmakers can also get the tears flowing
More Than Blue, the Taiwanese remake of the 2009 South Korean tear-jerker, is sending audiences reaching for the Kleenex once again.
It stars Jasper Liu Yi-hao as a young man diagnosed with leukaemia, who keeps it secret from potential love interest Ivy Chen Yi-han.
Terminal-illness romances litter Asian cinema like so many tear-stained tissues, and we could debate the reasons behind their popularity until one of us succumbs to a debilitating bone disease.
Instead, we leave you with five of our favourite deathbed dramas for you to check out:
C’est la Vie, Mon Cheri (1993)
Hong Kong was quick to get in on the act with this music-infused offering from Derek Yee Tung-sing.
Lau Ching-wan stars as a struggling jazz musician who meets Anita Yuen Wing-yee’s Cantonese opera performer after getting dumped by a big-time singer played by Carina Lau Ka-ling. All is going well for the mismatched pair, until Yuen’s character is diagnosed with bone cancer.
The film swept the board at the Hong Kong Film Awards that year, with almost everyone but Lau taking home the gold, only exacerbating his character’s tragic woes.
Christmas in August (1998)
Nobody does melodrama better than the Koreans, and few directors have plundered the tear-filled well as often, or with as much success, as Hur Jin-ho.
His crowning achievement is undoubtedly this timeless tale of Jung-won (Han Suk-kyu), a portrait photographer who falls for Shim Eun-ha’s charming traffic warden, only to discover he has just a short time left to live.
Instead of diving headlong into a short-lived romance, Jung-won gets his affairs in order, teaches his dad how to program the VCR and immortalises himself in a striking portrait.
Im Su-jung stars as Min-ah, a teenager who has been in and out of hospital for most of her young life. Her illness has cut her off from the world around her, but strengthened her relationship with her mother (Lee Mi-sook).
Romance is on the cards when Kim Rae-won’s goofy young photographer movies in downstairs and expresses an instant interest in our young protagonist. The unfolding tragedy is inevitable from the start, but first-time director Lee Eon-hee ensures that …ing celebrates the present, and strives for a positive, uplifting outcome.
Crying Out Love in the Centre of the World (2004)
Not to be outdone, the Japanese are equally prolific when it comes to killing off the young and beautiful in poetically tragic ways.
Using a classic flashback structure, the film sees Saku (Takao Osawa) discover audio diaries from his high-school girlfriend (Masami Nagasawa, in a career-making role), who died of leukaemia. As the past and present become intertwined, so too does his current relationship and the doomed first love from his formative past.
Crying Out Love was a monster hit that remains a classic of the genre, and has been imitated countless times since.
Under the Hawthorn Tree (2010)
Heavyweight director Zhang Yimou weighs in with this sprawling romantic epic set during China’s Cultural Revolution.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Chinese author Ai Mi, the film is a suitably star-crossed affair, as a beautiful high school student (Zhou Dongyu) is relocated to the countryside, where she falls for Shawn Dou’s geology student, Lao San. Despite their contrasting backgrounds, the pair can’t fight the immediate attraction they feel for one another.
But yes, the Big C rears its head once again, as Lao San is diagnosed with leukaemia, and abandons his true love to suffer in noble solitude.
Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook