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All About Love

Andy Lau, Charlene Choi, Charlie Young, and Andy Lau in All About Love
Chinese: 再說一次我愛你
Year: 2005
Director: Daniel Yu Wai-Kwok
Writer: Daniel Yu Wai-Kwok, Lee Kung-Lok
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Charlie Young Choi-Nei, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Hui Siu-Hung, Sasha Hou Sa-Sa, Lam Suet, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho
  The Skinny: Well-meaning and well-made, but simply too silly to buy. All About Love is cloying instead of clever, and is as manufactured as your standard Hallmark Card. It's also more expensive and probably nowhere near as effective. Primo date material for couples looking to ignore the film and make out in the back row.
by Kozo:

Andy Lau does double duty in the attractive, but ultimately laughable romantic drama All About Love. Lau is Ko, a workaholic doctor whose young wife (Charlene Choi) is constantly waiting for his time and attention. One day she drives to the hospital to pick up her husband for a long-awaited dinner, only to get denied when something else comes up. The lesson here is that she shouldn't have even driven to the hospital because once again her husband was busy. The other lesson is she should have looked both ways before pulling out of the parking lot, because she gets into a massive slow-mo car accident that seals her fate right quick. Ko's wife dies, and he's left a broken shell of a man. That's right: one of the Twins dies. And this is only ten minutes into the picture.

Fear not, fans of Charlene Choi: the toothy Twin returns for enough flashbacks to fill three other films. After losing his wife in the tragic accident, Ko becomes a withdrawn shell of a man, and goes about his daily life with an emotionless, robotic stiffness that recalls most of Leon Lai's performances. However, while on ambulance duty, Ko meets Sam (Charlie Young), an emotionally-wounded woman who just so happened to have a heart transplant. Ko realizes the truth soon: Sam bears his wife's heart within her fragile frame, and the massive coincidence is enough to shock him back into some semblance of life. Ko reasons that he was never able to spend enough time with his wife while alive, so now he wants to spend as much time as he can with her sole remaining body part: her heart. That her heart happens to be in another woman is apparently not much of obstacle for Ko, nor is it really supposed to be a morbid turnoff for the audience. After all, director Dennis Yu reveals everything with such reverent, slow-dissolve romantic style that Ko's journey is supposed to be heartbreaking and not really disturbing. An alternate title for this film: Man Stalks Wife's Heart.

However, Ko's heart-chasing ways are excusable thanks to massive coincidence number two: Ko is the virtual twin of Sam's husband Derek. Sam is emotionally hurt due to a painful separation from Derek, and the emotional turmoil seems to be contributing to her body's rejection of the transplanted heart. Ko learns all this thanks to contrived romantic drama circumstances. First, there's a bizarre online chat with Sam's heart surgeon (an amusingly-cast Anthony Wong), plus a convenient search through Sam's home. Sam leaves her keys at the hospital, and Ko is supposed to return them to her, but instead of doing so, he secretly enters her home Chungking Express-style. The breaking-and-entering allows him to read her diary, check out pictures of Sam and Derek, and reminisce about his dead wife. The flashbacks are full of endearing daily minutiae that hammer home three things: A) Ko didn't spend enough time with his wife, B) his wife was cuter than a stuffed animal, and C) the two really loved one another. The result of this emotional onslaught is a strengthening of Ko's resolve: he will spend even more time with his wife's heart by ensuring that it lives on in Sam's body. But how will Ko, a complete stranger who just so happens to look like her estranged husband, heal her emotional wounds?

If film quality were measured by sheer chutzpah, All About Love would be one of the greatest romances ever made. The film is not only filled with contrivances, manufactured circumstances, and loaded emotions, but is told with such heavy-handed reverence that it becomes either incredibly touching or totally laughable. The key here is suspension of disbelief, a factor the film nearly earns thanks to some decent acting and deliberate, show-not-tell storytelling. Andy Lau is effective in his two roles, Charlie Young brings affecting emotions to Sam, and Charlene Choi infuses her scenes with as much adorable chipmunk cheer as she can muster. All About Love seems dramatically sound thanks to its loaded, could-be-a-Korean-tearjerker plotline and solid production values. The people behind All About Love certainly worked hard to make this a quality motion picture.

However, they might have tried too hard. All About Love already taxes the credibility meter with its heart transplant storyline, but the Andy Lau doppelganger factor completely trashes any believability the film possesses. All About Love goes for cleverness with a couple of large twists meant to add an extra layer of drama to the already heavily-dramatic story. Unfortunately, the film achieves cleverness at too high a cost, and asks us to accept stuff that simply is not believable. Actually explaining what we're talking about risks major spoiler territory, so we'll just say this: if we're to accept what the film presents then A) the characters are clueless or delusional, and B) we, the audience, are so taken in by pretty people and convenient pathos that we're willing to accept something that's clearly a load of hogwash. Shouldn't we ask our romantic dramas to at least be credible?

Granted, the film does provide some final exposition to clear up some nagging believability issues. But it may not be enough. Besides simple credibility issues, All About Love features cheesy romantic flourishes (Ko likes to charm his ladies by performing laughably unrealistic magic tricks) and some far too obvious product placement. While mourning the loss of his wife, Ko makes sure to chug some bottles of the green tea Andy Lau routinely plugs; when a character sheds a tear in slow motion, it drops with heavy seriousness onto a CYMA watch, currently worn by Andy Lau on billboards in every MTR station in Hong Kong. Knocking the film for its product placement may seem too harsh, and international audiences will likely not realize that All About Love is really a 100-minute romance/tragedy/commercial. Still, the egregious cheekiness of Andy Lau and company is simply too much to ignore. Here's the rundown: Andy Lau products are everywhere in the film, he just released an album also called All About Love, and there are even two Andy Laus in the movie! Had they featured a scene with the two Laus sharing a beer, it would have been the icing on the cake. It's all right for a film to be solidly commercial, and had the filmmakers toned down the excess, All About Love could have been such a film. But in pushing too much cleverness, contrivance, and commercialism, All About Love is ultimately only crass. (Kozo 2005)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Intercontinental Video, Ltd.
2-DVD Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 7.1 / DTS-ES 6.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen