Starring: Gao Yuanyuan, Louis Koo, Daniel Wu
Director: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai
Running Time: 115 mins
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is a Chinese/Hong Kong film about a woman who finds herself caught in a desperate dilemma, as two men from her past return and vie for her affections.
This film really surprised me. On the face of things, it’s a generic love triangle, with cheesy grand gestures as far as the eye can see. However, look a little bit deeper and you’ll find a film that’s actually quite original and far more intelligent than it appears at face level, taking a unique and intriguing perspective on the love triangle story, as well as crafting memorable and heartwarming moments as well as layered and engrossing characters, all of which come together to make a film that you’ll be fully engaged by, and at times even moved on an emotional level.
There’s a lot to like about Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, but what impressed me most was the way in which the film tackles the age-old story of a love triangle. With a story that takes strong cues from Romeo & Juliet, you’d think that this would just be another retreading of the same premise, but it’s written in such a way that it’s a fully engrossing and actually unpredictable story that leaves you just as torn as our main character.
In short, the story tells of a woman working as an office employee who simultaneously forms a bond with both the wealthy boss from the office in the building opposite her, as well as a poor, down-on-his-luck architect. Years later, after not having seen either for a long time, they both return into her life, vying for her affections, leaving her torn as to which person she should choose.
You’ve heard that story before, but what works so well about this film is how the two men are characterised. While Gao Yuanyuan, who stars in the lead female role, is delightful herself, the real intrigue comes from the sharp contrasts between her two potential suitors. One a flamboyant but somewhat arrogant wealthy man, and the other a more humble person who has worked hard to get where he is today. You’d think that comparison would make her mindset a foregone conclusion, but the way in which circumstances change over the course of the film makes the dilemma she faces between the two men work really well.
And that’s what really impressed me about this film. Normally, a love triangle like this has a bit of internal conflict for the female lead, but that’s about it, whereas this film manages to craft a strong dilemma that goes beyond our main character’s feelings, and instead creates a situation where I, as the viewer, felt genuinely torn, yet still passionate about the story, making for an incredibly enthralling watch that you don’t often get in romantic comedies of this sort.
Another big plus from this film comes in the form of its humour. Although it’s not quite laugh-out-loud funny at any point, it balances its romantic drama with delightful and sweet humour throughout, with the high point being the wonderfully cheesy Romeo & Juliet-esque exchanges that take place between the characters seeing each other from office windows in different buildings. However, the film is still light-hearted and pleasant enough to make you smile as much as move you, which I really appreciated.
The performances are also fantastic. As I said, Gao Yuanyuan is a truly delightful lead, and alongside her sweeter characteristics, she’s also strong-willed and energetic enough to prove an intriguing lead on her own. Alongside, both Louis Koo and Daniel Wu do great jobs at portraying the two love interests, with Koo doing a great job at playing up the extravagant playboy persona, and Wu doing just as well with his more down-to-earth and ideal suitor, with both of those performances playing in brilliantly in making that love triangle dilemma work so well.
If there is one problem that I would have with this film, it would be the fact that it does feel a little too cheesy at times. I enjoyed the story to such a degree that I didn’t have a problem with any of the melodrama or the sweeter romantic moments, but there are still elements of the film that prove a little too shallow on the face of things, which could unfortunately put viewers off before giving them the chance to really get engrossed.
Overall, I had a wonderful time with Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. A really surprising romance that features great performances, humour and all, but most importantly a story with depth, intrigue, unpredictability, and a powerful dilemma that kept me thoroughly engrossed right up to the finish, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.