Director: Han Yan
Cast: Ni Dahong, Kara Wai, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Cecilia Yip Tung
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 21 September 2023
Synopsis: Chang Weijie (played by Ni Dahong) an empty-nest elderly man and Li Huiru (played by Kara Wai) a widowed elderly woman who collects scraps, are bound by a misunderstanding. Having a mutual affection for each other, they are, however, hesitant to make the next move. A clumsy statement of "I love you" ties the hearts of the two old people who are approaching the end of their lives, defying worldly prejudices and roaming in a sweet and romantic love. On the other hand, Xie Dingshan (played by Leung Ka Fai Tony) and Zhao Huanxin (played by Cecilia Yip Tung) are a loving couple who support each other throughout their lives. When the wife suffers from Alzheimer's disease, the husband takes on the burden of caring for her alone. His heartfelt words, "I love you", marks the commitment to be together until the very end of their lives. Through two stories of intense twilight love, the film portrays the different undertones of love, and also the best form of love – to love until life ends, yet love will never end. This story is based on the comic “I LOVE YOU” by Kang Full.
Warning: this Chinese drama is a tearjerker. Directed by Han Yan, the movie based on “I Love You”, a South Korean web comic by Kang Full has the premise of a melodrama featuring extremely sad stories that will please fans of the genre, but put off cynical viewers. But thanks to the competent cast headlining the title that opened the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival earlier in June this year, this is a movie that will have you appreciating the elderly loved ones in your life.
The first character we are introduced to Chang Weijie (Ni Dahong), a widower who can get grumpy when things don’t go his way. In one scene, we see him taking out a whip to threaten people in a park. It is also in that location he meets Li Huiru (Kara Wai), a widow who collects scraps for a living. She is also a caretaker and a tenant of an old lady in a wheelchair, and they spend time in a very old unit in the neighbourhood.
You can almost predict the sad plot developments that are going to take place throughout the 116 minute movie. Of course, Weijie will have feelings for Huiru and the two will get closer, but we aren’t sure whether a tragedy is lurking in the shadows. But as audiences, we celebrate the happy moments they share along the way. You smile when Weijie formats an old smart phone and gives it to Huiru, so the two can communicate on social media. Like teenagers who spend time at night looking at TikTok videos on their phones, Weijie chats with Huiru and asks her to like his old postings. It’s cheeky but very sweet.
Elsewhere, we also meet another couple Xie Dingshan (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and Zhao Huanxin (Cecilia Yip), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Diease. Dingshan is a devoted husband who will do anything for his wife. They may not lead a luxurious life, but it is admirable how the man is committed to stand by the woman he married. It doesn’t help that their children do not live with them in the old and rather cluttered apartment. One sequence where Dingshan invites his children and their spouses, together with their kids, over for a meal to celebrate Huanxin’s birthday is memorably heartbreaking. It may remind you of some of the family gatherings you had in real life, and make you wonder about your own perspective on family values.
The movie sees the four individuals spending time with each other in their twilight years, and it is heartwarming to see what good company can do to lift one’s spirits. As Weijie is a retired zoo attendant, he manages to bring his friend into where he used to work, and the scenes are lighthearted and almost inspiring when the characters share conversations about the animals, which are reflections on their lives.
We don’t want to spoil the ending here, but you will want to get ready some tissue papers. This is one of those movies where the main cast delivers strong performances, and sends a reminder that showbiz may not be fortunate to have them around forever.
(A bittersweet movie about old age that features strong and admirable performances from the main cast)
Review by John Li