All About Love Review
The opening five minutes of All About Love are not at all promising. Just about to finish his shift at the hospital, Dr. Ko (Andy Lau) has a cute and expository conversation with his wife ZiQing (Charlene Choi) in which we find out that she has just arrived outside the hospital to pick him up, despite only just having recently got her driving licence. We also find out that Dr. Ko is a young up and coming doctor, respected by the hospital administration. It comes as no surprise then that Ko is called away to an appointment and his disappointed wife hesitantly manoeuvres her car out of the car park into an horrific car accident. Except it’s not really that horrific an accident – it’s glossy, slow-motion and all done in the computer with no sign of any real damage, injury or even any indication of what ZiQing collided with – but apparently it’s bad enough that she dies in the accident. That heavily signposted opening and the stylish manner in which it is conducted should be enough to alert us to the fact that All About Love is not exactly going to be operating with any sense of realism, but lets keep an open mind...
To a lonesome piano solo (uh-oh, still not looking good…), Dr. Ko then narrates his sense of loneliness at the loss of the young wife he has only been married to for a few short months, most of which time he was busy at the hospital. Now captain of an ambulance team, he battles the conflicting coldness of carrying out orders and the memory of his own wife’s accident and goes to the rescue of a young woman who they have just witnessed crashing in her car. Again, there is no indication of any reason for the collision, no other parties involved and no blood or apparent injuries sustained, but as the woman has recently had a heart transplant operation, they rush her to the hospital just in case. Ko, however feels a presence about the woman and, (come on, you should be ahead of me by now...) since his wife was the donor in the very first successful heart transplantation operation carried out in Hong Kong (my, what a coincidence!), he believes he knows who was the recipient of his wife’s heart.
Ok, I know you still aren’t going to be convinced by the description thus far and, with the presence of Ko’s wife still hanging around the locations of home and hospital, it looks like the film is going to follow a familiar romantic bereavement template, as the person left behind has to come to terms with constant reminders of their lost one in the presence of another. But bear in mind that this is still only about 12 minutes into the film, so All About Love is nothing if not efficient and clear in setting out its premise and surprisingly, like Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, it manages to pull a different and unexpected twist on the proceedings. Unfortunately, it is just as unconvincing.
The film, making a great deal of use of CGI effects, shows through a rather tedious montage of blended and overlapping fades, Ko’s relationship with ZiQing over the period of their 108 days together, all of it taking place in a static shot of their apartment. Using the same apartment, it then follows the progress of the woman who has received ZiQing’s heart - Tse Yuan Sam (Charlie Yeung) – and her relationship with Derek Hu, a famous fashion designer who happens to look an awful lot like Ko, and is indeed also played by Andy Lau. Confused? Well, so was I. Ko finds out all about their relationship by getting his hands on her diary, which appears to be upstairs in his apartment (the one that looks identical to Tse Yuan Sam’s), and aware of his resemblance to Derek, he believes he ought to do something for the ailing woman who carries the heart of his dead wife. As if the film weren’t contrived enough and almost sickeningly melo-romantic, it becomes more unbearable maudlin as the film moves towards its inevitable daft and tragic conclusion, all presented in the most toe-curlingly embarrassing manner, with inappropriate CGI slow motion bullet-time effects and a soundtrack overloaded with heavenly choirs, sweeping strings and plaintive piano accompaniment.
It would take a good actor to make something of the contrivances presented here and give it some character or personality, but unfortunately we only have Andy Lau, who was similarly unconvincing as a romantic lead in House Of Flying Daggers. Here his inadequacy is only compounded by him having to play two romantic roles in the film. And unfortunately, it is the lack of a genuine sense of romance that lets down the tragic elements here. Ko’s relationship with ZiQing is portrayed as a rather childish big brother/younger sister type of relationship, playing peek-a-boo type games with each other, while Derek’s relationship with Yuan Sam, despite a rather unconvincing argument over suspected infidelity, is similarly also rather paternal, with Derek playing card tricks and telling his wife childish stories. There is no sense of passion or mutual need in the relationships for the viewer to really feel the wrench of the ultimate tragedies it has in store for them.
All About Love is released on DVD in Hong Kong by IVL and can be purchased from YesAsia using the links on this page. It is released in single-disc and two-disc editions. This review covers the two-disc Special Edition. The disc is Region 0 and in NTSC format.
The picture quality on IVL’s Hong Kong DVD release is very good. The image is sharp, clear and well-lit, showing off the film’s colour, brightness and contrast tones well. There are no marks on the print whatsoever and very few signs of any compression blocking – it only really being noticeable in the usual problematic areas such as steps, but even there it is well contained. The image, while mainly sharp and showing good detail, does however blur slightly in movements and some combing may be visible in freeze-frames of the film. In normal playback though such issues are negligible and the image is for the most part, strong and stable.
There are a choice of mixes of the original Cantonese soundtrack, but neither of them take any great advantage of the high quality DTS-ES or Dolby Digital 5.1 EX formats. The film is nevertheless well mixed and appropriate for the film with dialogue perfectly clear on the centre channel and a little more dynamic with the surround deployment of the music score.
Optional English subtitles are included for the feature, in a white font of unobtrusive size, which is clear and almost grammatically perfect throughout. There are however no subtitles for the extra features.
Disc One contains the film’s Trailer (2:03) presented in anamorphic 1.85:1, with no subtitles, but the general tone and presentation of the film is well laid-out. The same Trailer (1:58) is also presented on Disc Two, however this time it is letterboxed. The Making Of (19:59) is driven by interviews with the cast and the director narrating (I presume since there are no subtitles) the making of to clips and behind the scenes shots. It doesn’t seen a terribly interesting or in-depth feature. Main Character’s Commentary (3:56) seems to be an off-shoot of this, the director and actors giving their views on their characters. Event Footage (37:57) shows the various promotional events undertaken by the cast at shopping malls, screenings etc. with Andy Lau dutifully baking cakes, doing his ring trick and performing all sorts of stunts for his fan club. Forty minutes of this seems a bit excessive. Shown in notebook-style format, the Photo Gallery (2:10) presents a slideshow of stills from the film.
I’m not adverse to a good weepy, romantic melodrama that defies boundaries of time and death. The Koreans are particularly good at this with films like Il Mare and Ditto, and of course it is a staple of Hollywood filmmaking (Ghost, Just Like Heaven) that at its best produces films like The Notebook. All About Love however is burdened by too many unlikely contrivances and mistaken identities, unconvincing relationships, poor writing and overly stylised flourishes of CGI effects for it to be any way convincing. And it has Andy Lau playing the main romantic lead roles. Bearing all this in mind, if your expectations aren’t too high and you are prepared to go along with the flow for a good weepie, All About Love gives you plenty to sob over. IVL’s Hong Kong DVD release is not particularly strong on its (unsubtitled) extra features, but the film itself is presented quite impressively, with excellent picture quality and a good choice of high quality sound mixes.
Last updated: 14/07/2018 13:29:15