As part of their film’s marketing plan, the team behind Love is Not Blind traveled across China and asked young people to recount their own break-ups. While most in the video spoke calmly, one girl – on the verge of breaking into tears – said that she hopes her ex-boyfriend will find someone to go to Jay Chou concerts with. While that may sound trivial to many (Jay Chou fans excluded), Love is Not Blind strives to connect to people on that wavelength - i.e., the people who take break-ups as the end of the world - and its ability to do so is the film's biggest strength.
Director Teng Hua-Tao, here adapting the Internet novel by Bao Jing-Jing (who also co-wrote the script with Teng), is best known for television dramas that reflect the concerns of Chinese twenty-somethings towards relationships and their quality of life. About how a young urbanite who learns to stand up again after a traumatic break-up, Love is Not Blind obviously doesn’t offer the social commentary Teng’s television works do. However, by embracing the triviality of its subject matter and amplfying its importance, the film effectively captured the attitudes of its target demographic with the right balance of sentimentality and humor.
Another thing Teng and Bao succeed at is creating a likable heroine that audiences can relate to. That heroine is Wang Xiaoxian (Bai Baihe), a wedding planner in a stable seven-year relationship with Lu Ran (Guo Jingfei). One day, Xiao Xian catches Lu Ran with her best friend Jia-Qi (Jiao Junran), effectively losing both her boyfriend and her best friend in one day.
Much of the conflict in Love is Not Blind lies in Xiao-Xian's internal struggle to escape her post-break up funk. With a liberal use of voiceover and scenes of Xiao-Xian moping about her home, the film could’ve become a boring, self-involved mess. However, Xiao-Xan’s dialogue effectively captures the genuine emotions of someone getting out of a relationship. At the same time, the writers are smart enough to add characters like troublesome client Li Ke (model Zhang Zixuan, speaking with a hilarious fake Taiwanese accent), her wealthy fiancee (David Wang), Xiaoxian's sympathetic boss (Zhang Jiayi) and metrosexual co-worker Wang Yiyang (a wickedly funny Wen Zhang) to drive the story forward.
Xiaoxian and Yiyang's office rivalry and eventual friendship become the film's core, as Yiyang's brand of tough love helps Xiaoxian regain her pride and move on with her life. Featuring one of the best onscreen odd couples in recent memory, Love is Not Blind is at its funniest and most charming when Bai and Wen share the screen. Their relationship is also surprisingly subversive for the genre, intentionally avoiding romance for a heavier emphasis on friendship. Even though Yiyang’s sexual orientation is never explicitly mentioned in the film, the film is essentially about the importance of having a non-threatening male in your life. That alone makes Love is Not Blind a refreshing change from the usual romantic comedy.
However, Love is Not Blind is at its weakest when it veers away from Xiaoxian and Yiyang's friendship and Xiaoxian’s journey out of heartbreak. While the subplots involving Li Ke’s fiance and an old couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary work fine in the sprawling narrative structure of a novel, the film drags whenever it turns the focus on those subplots. Even at 110 minutes, the film could have benefitted from another 10 minutes of cuts. And this is despite the existence of a 150-minute extended version that was shown on Chinese television.
Love is Not Blind is worth watching for its two stars and its insights into break-ups. Beneath the glossy images of modern Beijing are genuine emotions and plenty of charm that make the film easy to like. While it doesn’t play as well on repeat viewings due to the story’s digressions, it is a pleasant, thoughtful urban romantic comedy that really does speak to people. Many Chinese blockbusters make money due to hype machines and advertising tactics, but Love is Not Blind is a rarity in that it’s an enjoyable film that was also sold with a clever advertising campaign. In other words, it’s a film that actually deserves its success. (2011, Kevin Ma)