Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Rebecca Pan
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Running Time: 98 mins
In The Mood For Love is a Hong Kong film about a man and a woman, both in marriages on the verge of falling apart, who meet and form a strong bond, but struggle to let their relationship develop for fear of committing the same mistakes that they suspect their respective spouses of.
As far as movies go, let alone romantic dramas, this is one of the most elegant and beautiful spectacles you’ll ever see. Wong Kar-wai’s brilliantly atmospheric In The Mood For Love is full of stunning directing, cinematography and scoring, coupled with an intriguing and unique romance played out between two fascinating characters.
If there’s anything about this film that needs praising, however, it’s the way it looks. Right from the first few minutes, there are some exceptionally beautiful shots that make this film look an absolute masterpiece. Wong’s use of slow-mo following our lead characters throughout the film gives a powerful sense of tension and uneasiness, but cleverly mixed with a smooth, seductive vibe, particularly when we see Maggie Cheung parading around in her incredible collection of flamboyant and vibrant outfits.
The film is also absolutely full of colour and life. In comparison to Wong’s other classic, Chungking Express, which, although being full of energy, visually looked quite washed-out, In The Mood For Love is an incredibly vibrant and colourful experience, which not only makes it a joy to look at, but it also works brilliantly in delivering a greater sense of romantic passion than what you’re directly seeing between the leads.
And that’s where this film gets really interesting, because it’s not quite as romantic as you’d expect. The directing and cinematography often does a lot to drum up more energy and passion, but the truth of the story at the centre of this movie is almost the exact opposite.
Following a man and a woman who form a relationship after they suspect their own partners of cheating, the story never plays out like a normal romantic drama. Because the two are afraid of hypocrisy and losing face if they’re seen together, the majority of their relationship feels a lot more tense and frustrating than as if we were watching them fall deeply in love.
Effectively, there’s not one moment of pure romance in this film, and even though the two are wanting to fall in love, the fear of the moral and social taboos mean they just can’t be truly happy, which makes for a fascinating watch, as they wrestle with their emotions between a desire for happiness and pragmatism for their own lives.
Now, this is where my one issue with the film comes in. There’s no doubt of the fantastic job that Wong Kar-wai does at making a visually thrilling film with an intriguing story, but what I just didn’t get from this film was the sense of pain that it’s going for. Quite simply, seeing as we’re following two people in a relationship that can’t progress, and won’t allow for love, I wanted to feel emotionally hurt and frustrated that they couldn’t be together.
It’s not like a normal Hollywood film where you want them to be together because that’s the fairytale story, but instead this is a film that focusses on the emotional negatives of being in a forbidden relationship, but I just didn’t feel enough hurtful emotional power to feel really wrapped up in their story.
Overall, In The Mood For Love is a great film, with beautiful visuals, good performances, an intriguing and different romantic story, but I felt it just missed the mark when it came to being a really emotionally powerful film, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.