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Review: Love in Late Autumn (2016)

Love in Late Autumn

爱在深秋

Hong Kong/China, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 97 mins.

Director: Lin Jiawei 林家威 [Lim Kah Wai].

Rating: 4/10.

Corny, stereotypical melodrama set in China, showcasing veteran Hong Kong actress Wen Bixia.

STORY

Hong Kong, the present day. On the eve of her wedding anniversary, famous Hong Kong actress Wen Menglin (Wen Bixia), decides to surprise her husband Huang Jiahui (Tan Yaowen), an art dealer in Shanghai, by flying to see him. Arriving at his flat she’s surprised to see him with another woman, Cindy (Fang Haowen), though he insists she’s just a work colleague. She asks him to go with her the next day to Guilin, Guangxi province, where they spent their honeymoon 10 years ago, but he says he can’t get away as he has an important party the following evening. Wen Menglin goes to the party but again becomes suspicious he’s having an affaire with Cindy; after walking out, distressed, she’s picked up by the same taxi driver, Han Lei (Zhao Bingrui), as she had the previous evening. A wannabe writer, he makes notes on situations he encounters during his job. He drives her around for a few hours and leaves his card with her. Back in the flat, she finds Huang Jiahui asleep but spots a memento of Cindy’s presence. Next morning she decides to go to Guilin on her own, and hires Han Lei to drive the 1,600 kilometres – a journey of several days during which they bond. Back in Hong Kong, Wen Menglin’s “disappearance” has already caused media interest, as she’s needed for work on her current movie Love of Admirable 风花. When reporters track her down in the company of Han Lei, Huang Jiahui decides to fly to Guilin.

REVIEW

Anyone who has spent a sizeable amount of time driving through China will find plenty to recognise in the motoring sections of, and the performance by Mainland actor Zhao Bingrui 赵炳锐 as a taxi driver in, Love in Late Autumn 爱在深秋. Unfortunately, the star of the movie is not Zhao but 1980s Hong Kong actress Wen Bixia 温碧霞 (Lonely Fifteen 靓妹仔, 1982; Everlasting Love 停不了的爱, 1984; Rouge 胭脂扣, 1988), in a stereotypical melodrama (co-produced by her own company, Irene Production) about a middle-aged Hong Kong actress looking for romance in scenic Guilin. As original as its generic-sounding title, the film just about staggers along thanks to the believable playing of Zhao, 32, some clean, good-looking photography by veteran Hong Kong d.p. Zhong Youtian (Christmas Rose 圣诞玫瑰, 2013), and a pleasantly restrained score by Japan’s Watanabe Takashi 渡边崇. But it sinks under the weight of the script’s corniness and gasp-inducing dialogue whenever the going is left to the expressionless Wen, 50, or her equally wooden Hong Kong co-star Tan Yaowen 谭耀文, 47, as her supposedly errant husband.

Aside from Zhao, whose cabbie-cum-wannabe writer motors large sections of the film, the most interesting name on the credits is that of Malaysia-born director/co-writer Lin Jiawei 林家威 [Lim Kah Wai], 43, who’s gradually forged a career in arty indie productions (New World 新世界の夜明け, 2011), several set in Japan. Love, his first feature in three years, is his most commercial to date and professionally put together on a technical level; but in every other way it’s several steps back from his last (and best feature) Fly Me to Minami 恋するミナミ (2013). Though Love has the feel of a commissioned vanity production – co-produced and co-written by Hong Kong’s Huang Guozhao 黄国兆 [Freddie Wong], who starred Wen in his own directing debut, The Drunkard 酒徒 (2011) – it does have hints of Lin’s more personal films in its focus on a character in an unfamiliar landscape and her general sense of emotional rootlessness. But it’s a shame that, just when he was finding his film-making feet with Minami, Lin fails to stretch his legs in a more mainstream production.

Wen and Zhao were previously together in the period political drama 72 Martyrs 英雄喋血 (2011). That film also featured Mainland actor Wang Jiancheng 王建成, who in Love plays the taxi driver’s father in a brief but resonant scene.

CREDITS

Presented by Bejing Cash Flower Communication (CN), Emperor Film Production (HK), Irene Production (HK), EMP Distribution (Beijing) (CN). Produced by Golden Gate Productions (HK).

Script: Li Fei, Lin Jiawei [Lim Kah Wai], Huang Guozhao [Freddie Wong]. Photography: Zhong Youtian. Editing: Chen Xuqing. Editing advice: Huang Hai. Music: Watanabe Takashi. Art direction: Huang Zhiqiang. Sound: Yamashita Aya, Nie Jirong, Chen Zhiyang. Visual effects: Huang Hongxian (IDE Production).

Cast: Wen Bixia (Wen Menglin/Linda), Tan Yaowen (Huang Jiahui/Patrick), Zhao Bingrui (Han Lei), Fang Haowen (Cindy, Huang Jiahui’s assistant), Wang Jiancheng (Han Lei’s father), Liu Xun (groom’s father), Deng Minsi (Amy, Wen Menglin’s assistant), Zeng Jingwen (himself/Kingman Cho, film’s director), Huang Guozhao [Freddie Wong] (film’s producer), An Qi (MC), Rong Zifei (journalist), Cui Er (Han Lei’s ex-girlfriend), Lai Yiming (her new boyfriend), Zhang Tianle (doctor),

Release: Hong Kong, 21 Jan 2016; China, 22 Jan 2016.