Director: Giddens Ko
Cast: Kai Ko, Vivian Sung, Gingle Wang
Runtime: 2 hrs 8 mins
Rating: NC16 (Sexual References & Some Nudity)
Released By: Clover Films
Opening Day: 2 December 2021
Synopsis: Ah-lun is struck dead by lightning, and when he goes to the underworld, he has no memory of his previous life. He has a choice to make: to reincarnate, or to become a god and share the workloads on the earth. After training, Ah-lun takes on the job of god of love. He teams up with Pink Lady and binds countless men and women together with red strings to pass on the love pollen while trying to find out what happened to him with the strong deja vu he has. Day by day, Ah-lun found out that his biggest task is to tie this red string on his best loving woman Xiao-mi with someone else and that will separate them for eternity.
When Giddens Ko’s You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011) was released, not only did the Taiwanese movie struck a chord with this reviewer, it was a hit with millions of viewers as they were fondly reminded of the first time they fell in love. Ten years on, Ko is back with another film that blew this writer away. It is easily one of the best movies he has seen recently, and he believes that it will be popular among the masses too.
The first thing that will draw you in is the romantic story. Based on Ko’s 2002 book which is also his first foray into the romance genre, it tells the tale of Ah Lun (Kai Ko), who is struck dead by lightning, and Pinky (Gigle Wang), who also died a traumatic death. To earn goodwill points so they can prevent themselves from reincarnating into pests like cockroaches and slugs, Ah Lun and Pinky take on the task of being love gods (which is the movie’s the Chinese title) who help the lonely and lovelorn find their other halves. They do so by tying the two individuals with a red string (Chinese viewers would be familiar with this folklore), and presto – love happens. Things get complicated when Ah Lun runs into his ex girlfriend Xiao Mi (Vivian Sung), and the dilemma of whether to find her another man kicks in.
While the plot sounds like a straightforward story, there is more than meets the eye. First, the imaginative approach of the film will leave you in awe. Trust Ko and his team of filmmakers to visualise the underworld as a bureaucratic environment where spirits have to complete tasks and submit reports. There is a system where internships and work placements are offered. The set design is eye catching and brilliant, and you will be engaged as Ah Lun and Pinky get themselves prepared to become love gods.
The film then sends the team of love gods onto Earth. The sequence where they breeze through an arcade (unbeknownst to humans) is one of the best scenes you’ll ever see on screen. Energetically edited to a punchy Japanese pop tune, the cast members display their best dance moves and give their most stylistic poses. Then you’ll see how the love gods do their work when couples are brought together in the most unexpected ways.
When it’s time for Ah Lun to get involved with Xiao Mi, the movie hits all the right emotional notes and may even make you shed a few tears when things get melodramatic (cynics may scorn at the manipulative storyline, but this should work well for most people). Another noteworthy character is the film’s supposed villain played by Umin Boya. He portrays a very angry spirit who has been wronged during his lifetime, and is out to get vengeance. There are a few standout scenes with poignant lines that will leave you thinking about the why we often feel disgruntled with life.
The 128 movie has all the right elements for it to be highly recommended. It tells a heartfelt story in an inventive way, and makes use of visual effects very well. It is no wonder the movie took home the Best Visual Effects prize, together with the accolades for Best Costume Design and Best Sound Effects at the recent Golden Horse Awards, where it was nominated in 11 categories. If you’re looking for a movie to perk up your dreary life, this is it.
(Get on your feet, head to the cinema and be invigorated by this eclectic film with a story that is told with imagination and heart)
Review by John Li