Telling you everything you need to know in the title, Love is a light alternative to the carbon copy romantic comedies that populate the cinemas at this time of year.
Taiwanese director Doze Niu has led a life mostly in the spotlight, beginning his career as an actor at the age of nine and nominated for his first Golden Horse Award at seventeen. His celebrity status got him bullied at school, until he became friends with a mob boss’ son by the name of “Teapot”. The hardships continued at home with a father diagnosed with a degenerative motor neuron disease. With his films What on Earth Have I Done Wrong? and Monga, the director incorporated elements of his life to great effect, but with this latest movie, he is about celebrating all things romantic.
Love is a series of tangentially connected stories featuring an all-star ensemble cast, including megastars Shu Qi and Vicki Zhao, structured in a manner not too dissimilar to Hollywood’s hyperlinked Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve or a slightly less comic All’s Well That Ends Well. Yi Jia (Yi-Han Chen) is a college bicycle team captain who finds out she is pregnant by her best friend’s boyfriend Kai (Eddie Pen), shattering her friend Ni (Amber Kuo) and causing the couple to break up. Yet Kai is devoted to Ni, and determined to get her back. Meanwhile Ni’s father, Lu (Doze Niu) leaves a high-flying lifestyle with his glamourous actress girlfriend Zoe Fang (Shu Qi), but he is unable to commit and her her lover Mark (Mark Jua) is unable to love. Her outlook on life changes when she meets Kuan (Ethan Ruan), a waiter with a speech impediment. Meanwhile, successful businessman Mark encounters Xiao-Ye Jin (Vicky Zhao), a bumbling real-estate agent with a young child in need of a father.
The tone for the film is set early by a stunningly shot opening sequence, which appears to be a single fluid take that runs for almost 15 minutes. Set to a happy-go-lucky tune about all things love, the sequence gives us everything we need to know about these characters and their motivations in one handy bite-sized piece. Love never gets any deeper than surface level, but it doesn’t treat the affair a cynical marketing tool either. The relationships that develop between the leads feel like genuine ones, and although we have seen thematically similar stories before, Mark Jua and Vicki Zhao come off as the more naturally suited in these kinds of pairings.
Love, as the title would imply, is an incredibly sweet affair. If the storyline isn’t sugary enough for you, the seemingly ubiquitous presence of Häagen-Dazs® ice cream will be the sweetener. Really: it’s everywhere, even on the back of magazines central to the plot. Yet there is little to dislike about Love, and the bright and breezy film injects a much-needed sense of joy into this crazy little thing we call love.