Director: Xue Xiaolu
Cast: Tang Wei, Wu Xiu Bo, Kara Hui, Paul Chun, Lu Yi
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 5 May 2016
Synopsis: Is it destiny that brings people together, or is it accident? Jiao, a happy-go-lucky casino hostess living in Macau, is a lucky charm in the eyes of her VIP clients. Her know-how on statistical logic and gambling theory is her trump card, making all her clients leaving the table happily with stacks of chips. But her tumultuous past and carefree style always get in the way when it comes to finding true love. Meanwhile, across the Pacific, hotshot realtor Daniel smooth-talks his wealthy Chinese clients into buying house after house. A class opportunist, he seizes the chance when the Chinese economy booming means money making business. While people look to him as an example of success, no one realizes that his heart is as empty as an open house. Fate comes into play when Jiao and Daniel stumble upon the book 84 Charing Cross Road. Out of frustrations, they each send an ambiguous letter to the book title’s address. Serendipity weaves its way and their letters reach each other, marking the beginning of their long distance communication. Sharing ups and downs with a total stranger through letters, they found relief and console from each other, and miraculously, a spiritual connection. But one day, their exchange halts due to certain setback. Jiao is in bad debt and looking for a way out. A wealthy client’s offer to getaway to Las Vegas comes just at the right time. On the other hand, to woo an old couple into selling their house, Daniel offers to accompany them on a trip to Las Vegas. Will this intricate threadwork of timing, circumstances and serendipity bring these two people, living 11,000 kilometers apart, to finally meet each other in the city also known as the Capital of Second Chances?
Admit it - it’s usually easier to relay your truest feelings via some sort of platform. In today’s context, it is probably on chat apps like WhatsApp, Line or WeChat. Remember there was a time when people had pen pals and actually wrote letters to each other? Unlike chat apps where reactions are almost instant (oh, and there’s that painful function where you actually know whether the other party has read your message, making you...wait), people had to wait for the letter to be read, a reply to be penned and posted out before eventually reaching your mailbox. Coupled actual handwriting, this whole thing made the revelation of feelings more indulgently romantic.
And that’s what this pseudo sequel to Xue Xiaolu’s wildly popular Finding Mr Right (2013) is about.
Jiao (the gorgeous Tang Wei), a hostess in a Macau casino, and Daniel (Wu Xiubo), a Los Angeles real estate agent, strike up a correspondence, the former claiming to be from London’s posh West End and the latter a West Coast professor. We actually venture into the emotions of these two protagonists as she lives a hollow existence in Macau that sees her drift from one disastrous affair to another, while the somewhat heartless womaniser to tries to persuade an old couple to sell their house.
The two characters have no relations to the 2013 movie. The only connection is that they are played by Tang and Wu, who share irresistible chemistry between them. You admit that this is a cash cow to make die hard romantics (especially in China, where the two stars are very, very popular) step into the cinema to enjoy 132 minutes of a beautiful fantasy, but you go along for the ride anyway - simply because, who doesn't wish to live a fairytale romance?
The novel which brings the two characters is 84 Charing Cross Road, a story written in 1970 by Helene Hanff about her twenty-year correspondence with book buyer Frank Doel at Marks & Co. It mirrors the long distance correspondence relationship of the two leads. A whole load of side plots in the form of misfortunes happen along the way (the two odd hour runtime does feel like a stretch at times), and you get sequences coated with magic realism where imaginary characters appear to talk to the protagonists. Yet, your eyes are glued to the screen as the actors do a remarkable job which have us empathising with them, yet seeing their flaws at the same time. The characters are endearingly true to life, as we find ourselves asking what we would do if we were in their situations.
Supporting characters deliver outstanding performances too. Kara Hui is Tang’s father’s ex girlfriend who is raising the gambling addict. Paul Chun and Wu Yanshu are the old couple Wu tries to swindle, but eventually finds himself reassessing his personality. Lu Yi is a fine young man who breaks Tang’s heart early in the film.
You know this movie is the greatest form of escapism, with all its lyrical and emotional voiceovers, but for that two plus hours, you let yourself go to indulge in an engagingly charming love story.
(The charming chemistry between Tang Wei and Wu Xiubo make this indulgent romance endearingly engaging)
Review by John Li