SYNOPSIS: Li is a professional weightlifter who quits the sport due to diabetes. She decides to go to Hong Kong to start a new life where she meets Yun. Soon, Li and Yun fell in love and got married, leading a simple but happy life. As the 2008 Olympic Games approach, Li recalls her dream of being an Olympian medalist. Yun is supportive of Li’s ambition and convinced her to take up weightlifting again. Li starts her intensive training and things went well, till Yun was seriously injured in an accident. Before Yun dies, he tells Li of his last wish to see her shines at the Olympic… Li is determined to fulfil Yun’s last wish…
Every director has at least one Achilles’ heel, and for prolific Hong Kong director Herman Yau- whose filmography ranges from hard hitting crime thrillers to social dramas to period gongfu movies- that genre seems to be the romantic drama. Indeed, his latest effort ‘Love Lifting’- based on the true story of a female weightlifter who overcomes the odds to fulfil her ambition of winning the gold- is as bland as it gets despite the potential of the source material, and would have been unwatchable if not for the solid performances of its lead stars Chapman To and Elanne Kwong.
Yes, we’re as surprised as you to see the svelte Kwong (last seen in the Singapore-Malaysia co-production ‘The Wedding Diary’) play a weightlifter, but the sweet actress pulls it off admirably. It’s an unflattering lead role all right, and for the most part Kwong convinces by playing it straight and earnest. Kwong’s sincerity is for the most part matched by To’s, an admittedly unlikely choice for the lead actor in a romantic drama, but the roundish actor shares a nice low-key chemistry with Kwong, and together make you root for their characters’ relationship.
Unfortunately, neither To nor Kwong can overcome the shortcomings of the script by Yau, Yang Yee-Shan and Yang Ya-Wen, who seem content to simply lay out the life story of Li Li (Kwong) and her faithful loving husband Shek Yung (To). With To and Kwong taking turns to lend some voiceover, the narrative unfolds in a surprisingly detached fashion, covering the key episodes of their lives- Li as an athlete forced into early retirement by her diabetic condition; Yung as a failed bar owner before he moves into a rented apartment next to Li’s; Yung’s attraction towards Li culminating in their marriage; Li’s difficult pregnancy; and finally her journey to reclaiming her ambition.
It is certainly admirable that Yau exercises restraint with the material, avoiding obvious melodrama that other directors might be prone to- but he has unfortunately gone the other extreme here, draining the emotion out of what should inherently be a touching tale of love and perseverance. Certainly, it is telling when Li’s eventual victory over the odds is less than moving, dealt with in such a perfunctory manner that it fails to resonate. Because one fails to get involved with the characters, a key twist towards the end of the film in fact comes off manipulative, with the lack of emotional buildup towards that moment a key reason why it doesn’t achieve its intended effect.
To be fair, Yau still does a good enough job moving the story along, so at a brief 90 mins, it doesn’t get boring. But a movie like ‘Love Lifting’ requires you to feel and identify with the characters for it to work, and Yau fails to let his audience do that. Still, by the strength of their acting alone, To and Kwong make this barely worth your time, both lead stars stepping out of their comfort zones to deliver credible and convincing performances.
You'll get your standard Making-of featurette here, which is probably only good in showing how the waif-like Elanne Kwong trained for her role as a female weightlifter. Otherwise, the Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer are hardly worth your time.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound reproduces the Mandarin dialogue clearly, while visuals are clean and sharp. Pity though that this local release does not come in its original Cantonese dialogue.