Starring: Shu Qi, Liu Ye, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
Director: Lau Wai-Keung
Running Time: 122 mins
A Beautiful Life is a Hong Kong film about a man who, after years of supporting a woman through all of her lows, eventually sees her come round to his way of living.
Although I didn’t expect all that much in the way of an original break from the romantic drama genre, I have to say that A Beautiful Life really bored me from beginning to end, failing to implement any sort of powerful emotion or even simple humour to make for a more enjoyable watch, worsened by dull and irritating characters whose development just isn’t deserved over the course of the story.
Let’s start off with those characters, because they’re undoubtedly the reason that I really didn’t like watching this film. Romantic movies have one simple job, and that’s to make you care for the lovebirds at the centre of the story, to the point where you can sympathise with their feelings for one another. In the case of A Beautiful Life, however, the central characters are so unlikable that there’s absolutely no chance for you to ever care about them.
From the beginning, the female lead (Shu Qi), is a messy and rather unpleasant person, and although that’s a low starting point to allow her character to develop into someone a little more likable by the end of the movie, she leaves an incredibly bad first impression on you, to the point where her eventual growth into a more level-headed character doesn’t feel all that genuine, as you’re still annoyed by the rather horrible person she was at first.
Alongside, Liu Ye doesn’t do all that much to inspire your sympathies either. While his character is significantly nicer and morally sound, he’s a little bit of a dull and weak character. Again, that changes over the course of the movie, but in far too abrupt and unconvincing ways to really grab you, again leaving you seeing him as nothing more than the somewhat underwhelming character he was at the the beginning.
In that, there’s no reason to care about these characters, and even less of an opportunity to form an emotional connection with their romance, meaning that every step the film takes towards showing them falling in love has no impact on your interest whatsoever, making the whole thing incredibly boring from beginning to end.
Now, while the central story is unlikable and uninteresting, I was still hoping that the film could redeem itself with some good humour and charisma. After all, even though the film definitely falls more on the dramatic side of the romantic genre, a couple of laughs and charming or sweet moments are always a massive help in bringing some joy to the table.
However, there’s next to nothing of that, with the only attempts of bringing some pleasant levity to proceedings coming in a couple of unimpressive musical sequences, whereas there’s nothing in the way of good humour to put a smile on your face and give you a break from all of the tedium of the rest of the film.
Overall, I was really unimpressed by A Beautiful Life. A romantic drama that’s flawed right from the opening scene, with unlikable characters that are unable to develop beyond their poor first impressions, a lack of humour and charm, and a generally tedious and generic plot that won’t ever grab your interest in any way, which is why I’m giving it a 4.6.