Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Aaron Kwok, Tao Zeru
Director: Gu Changwei
Running Time: 100 mins
Love For Life is a Chinese film about a small rural community where a group of villagers have been infected with AIDS, and two sufferers who unexpectedly fall in love put aside their troubles to spend their last days together.
This film really surprised me. At first, I expected a somewhat melodramatic account of love triumphing over anything, with cheesy motifs in place of any real emotional depth, but I’m happy to report that Love For Life is both a riveting and emotionally impacting film, and one that manages to create real, engrossing drama from what at first seems like a whole lot less.
Let’s start off by looking at the film’s two distinct halves. First off, the movie begins with a look at how a group of AIDS sufferers are completely ostracised from their local community. It’s a striking opening, and even more so because it empahsises just how far-reaching and damaging the disease can be, deeply affecting people from the big city all the way to a small rural village in the middle of China. What’s more, the portrayal of the discrimination that the sufferers face is actually pretty heartbreaking to watch, as the villagers go out of their way to avoid any physical contact with the sufferers, distancing themselves as much as possible, and thereby socially isolating them.
That leads us into the film’s second half, which proves an impressively touching watch. As the villagers affected with the disease are further isolated from the community, they begin to form a strong bond with one another, ultimately embracing the friendship that their affliction has allowed for. In that, the two who strike up a strong relationship, Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok, represent their strength in overcoming their illness. Now, I know that sounds like a really cheesy central theme, but I was really surprised by just how emotionally affecting and genuine this part of the story was, with the romance that blossoms between the two providing a genuinely uplifting watch, all the while retaining the dramatic depth established in the somewhat harsher opening act.
I won’t deny that the film has moments of melodrama – its ending in particular is a little over-the-top, and isn’t entirely earned over the course of the film, but I was pleasantly surprised by just ow engaging and touching a stroy the film was able to tell with what at first appeared to be a fairly cheesy story.
What’s more is that, along with its touching story, the film’s setting and visuals make it an even more moving watch. Much like The Road Home (also starring Zhang Ziyi), the film creates a very bright and positive portrayal or rural living, and depsite the discrimination that comes about as a result of the disease, the sense of community that is emphasised even through the visuals, always showing the small town in bright, dazzling sunlight, is a wonderful central element that only added to my overall enjoyment.
Overall, while there are moments of melodrama throughout, Love For Life is in all honesty a wonderfully touching and uplifting film that turns an often cheesy central theme about the power of love and community in the face of adversity into something that’s really wonderful, and that’s whhy I’m giving it a 7.7 overall.