MAN IN LOVE (当男人恋爱时) (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: A Cheng is a kind-hearted debt collector who meets the debt-ridden Hao Ting. A Cheng becomes deeply attracted to her after seeing her uncomplainingly care for her ailing father and learning that she is shouldering the debt on her own. He eases her burden with a tailor-made repayment scheme: debt reduction in exchange for dates with him. When she has lowered her defenses enough to accept A Cheng's heart, a series of events lead to a bumpy road ahead.
Man In Love is more or less, a straight-out remake of the Korean version which stars Hwang Jung-min. Instead of a character actor liked Hwang, this Taiwanese version stars Roy Chiu (Dear Ex) who is obviously easy on the eyes and the gorgeous looking Tiffany Hsu (The Tag Along). With the pairing of Chiu and Hsu, that will be half the battle won. But don’t take our word for it, Man In Love indeed was a box-office hit when it was released earlier this year in Taiwan.
Chiu plays A Cheng, a boorish, loan shark runner with a big heart. Despite his unorthodox ways of collecting bad debts, he helps to defer payment or collect a lesser amount from some of his desperate debtors. During one of his debt collecting sessions, Cheng met Hao Ting (Tsu), a bank teller working hard to take care of her ailing dad and piling hospital bills. Cheng developed an instant liking to her and tried ways to persuade Ting to go on dates with him.
Despite the odds, Cheng and Hao Ting start a romantic relationship shortly after the demise of Ting’s dad. With compensation from her dad’s insurance and savings, Ting plans to start a beverage business while Cheng proposes to start a family with her and quit his role as a loan shark runner. As expected, “things” happened and the lovebirds are sadly torn apart.
This is definitely not a happily-ever-after type of rom-com, the kind that you expect it to be. The first half of the story does indeed contain a rather wacky tone which might led many to think that it’s a light-hearted love story. On the contrary, it turned more and more depressed as the story goes. For a start, Cheng ends up being conned by his employer and subsequently developed a brain tumour. You know tearjerker stuff and more.
At the core of the flick is the triumphant message of a hooligan turns good. Some might lament it’s a little too late for the character but end of the day, Cheng manages to earn his redemption. Kind of ironic when you think of it. There are moments in the movie that could have benefited from a tighter edit. In fact, we wanted to see more of Cheng and Ting being all lovey-dovey yet Man In Love prefers to delve more onto life’s big issues and misfortunes.
There’s even a side story of Cheng’s dementia dad (Hokkien pop singer Tsai Chen-nan) which gets some attention here and there. Frankly speaking, there’s enough melodrama to fill up three more full-length movies and tears to fill up buckets. Fortunately, with the weight of the entire movie resting squarely on Roy and Tiffany’s shoulders, they did an excellent job making the entire affair low-key, endearing and heartfelt.
Man In Love with all its excesses, is still a recommended weepie. Expect sniffles and snobs in the last 30 minutes.
Review by Linus Tee