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Guia in Love
Guia in Love     Guia in Love

(left) Stephy Tang and Wong Yau-Nam, and (right) Babyjohn Choi and Vivian Chan.
Chinese: 燈塔下的戀人  
Year: 2015  
Director: Sam Leung Tak-Sum  
Producer: Paco Wong, Sam Leung Tak-Sum
Writer: Sam Leung Tak-Sum

Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Wong Yau-Nam, Annie Liu, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Babyjohn Choi Vivian Chan, Joyce Cheng Yan-Yi, Jacky Cai, Wan Yeung-Ming, Wilson Lam Chun-Yin, Siu Fei, Fabien Yang, Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei

The Skinny:

Middling-to-poor romance anthology that’s got decent moments and a few solid performances, but unexceptional or cringeworthy everything else. Story-wise, this might have been better as two films to give the characters more room to develop. Filmmaking-wise, who knows if that would have helped?

by Kozo:

Director-writer-producer Sam Leong brings us Guia in Love, an inconsequential and uneven collection of intertwining love stories set in Macau. The title is a reference to the Chapel of Our Lady Guia, a historic Portuguese chapel and lighthouse, which was where old dudes Kai-Kwong (Wilson Lam) and Ka-Sing (Wan Yeung-Ming) met their first love, Yuk-Lan, who chose Ka-Sing before she eventually passed away. Now, a generation later, Kai-Kwong and Ka-Sing are spoiling for a rematch. Kai-Kwong has just returned to Macau to take over a casino hotel, and he assigns his daughter Debbie (Stephy Tang) to be the CEO. Debbie chooses to start incognito as a casino manager, which is how she meets Wah (Wong Yau-Nam), a dealer who practices lion dancing and snake-style kung-fu on the side. Meanwhile, Ka-Sing's son Chan Keung (Wilfred Lau) has lost his wife (Jacky Cai) and is now perpetually melancholy. Chan Keung also has a son, so he and his dad have departed spouses, single parenthood and mucho manpain in common.

Chan Keung’s depression is so bad that he can’t even partake in his former hobby: watching unsubtitled Indian films. However, schoolteacher Miss Lai (Annie Liu) also likes unsubbed Indian films and has taken fond notice of Chan Keung before. Will Miss Lai become a replacement for Chan Keung’s wife? Miss Lai is also pals with Debbie, and the two sometimes get together to drink and cause the movie to totally fail the Bechdel test. Debbie finds herself thinking about Wah, who broke through her implacable rich girl defenses pretty easily. Meanwhile, Wah pals around with Uncle Kin (Babyjohn Choi), who’s worried because his longtime girlfriend Phillis (Vivian Chan) is competing in a singing contest and may go to Japan for further career development. There’s also a bonus story involving a heartbroken café owner (Fiona Sit) who makes cameos to gaze into the distance and spout romantic metaphors without anyone asking her to. All this plus plenty of gorgeous Macau architecture. Wow, Macau sure is nice!

Romance anthologies have self-explanatory value, especially if the stars are up to snuff. One could argue if Guia in Love meets that standard, but Sam Leong’s uneven storytelling precludes any debate. Leong sets up the premise of each story decently but offers poor development, such that the climaxes are more cringeworthy than touching. The attention given to each character is also unequal. For example, to explain Chan Keung’s connection to Miss Lai, he gets three separate flashbacks to the same moment in time. Here’s an idea: Why not give Chan Keung only one flashback and use the time saved to develop other characters? Or, rather than require redundant flashbacks, maybe have an active plot and develop the relationships concurrently? The lack of a cohesive structure hurts the film, and Leong creates emotion using music-video like imagery instead of good writing or a logical script. Choppy storytelling, mystifying transitions, unresolved plot threads and sometimes bizarre interactions – Guia in Love is a morass of moviemaking missteps.

Acting is all over the place. Babyjohn Choi and Wilfred Lau earn sympathy with relatively grounded performances, while Annie Liu is fine during quiet moments, but less so when delivering dialogue. Stephy Tang fares worse, pouting and flailing like she’s a wacky romcom heroine. At one point she even leaps out of frame in her spastic excitement. In Tang’s and the also-overacting Wong Yau-Nam’s defense, their story – rich girl meets poor guy but he doesn’t know it – supports over-the-top romcom rhythms while Sam Leong’s unremarkable direction doesn’t. New talent Vivian Chan is OK and the elder actors handle their conflict in an agreeably playful manner. The best actor here may be Fiona Sit but she can’t bring sense to the thin script. Overall, Guia in Love might have been better as two full features – not because the stories are that good, but because two movies would have allowed more room for development. Would Sam Leong have handled two Guia films better? I’d hope so, but Guia in Love is a single disappointing film so I guess we’ll never know. (Kozo, 9/2015)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co Ltd
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also available on Blu-ray Disc
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