Leaving Me Loving You (2004)
by: Wilson Yip
the Limited Edition DVD at:
Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2005:
After only a moderately successful venture into mainstream filmmaking, which included a pure stinker in the form of Skyline Cruisers and 2002, a CGI sci-fi extravaganza with a surprising amount of worthwhile touches, Wilson Yip returns to a genre he's been able to work wonders with before, in his own personal way. Wilson achieved critical fame making small, characterdriven movies such as Bullets Over Summer and Juliet In Love (his finest film to date) and it was a delight to hear that his latest project, Leaving Me Loving You seemed like a throwback to something akin to small, resulting in more freedom for Yip. That belief beforehand turns out to be true but after all is said and done, Leaving Me Loving You doesn't strike as much of a chord as Yip's prior ventures into the genre.
Chow (Leon Lai) and Yuet (Faye Wong) break up their seemingly perfect relationship. Due to them sharing the same client, elderly Mr. Man, in their respective line of work (he being the family doctor and she organizing Mr Man's birthday party), their paths cross frequently and Chow realizes he still has strong feelings for Yuet. Yuet on the other hand is hurt and is moving on, while he is moving in....across the street.
The Shanghai Tourist Association surely must be thoroughly happy with Leaving Me Loving You, Faye Wong fans as well but Wilson Yip fans shouldn't be thoroughly be in all honesty. Leaving Me Loving You is a romance and most movie romances doesn't resemble reality very much so if it feels manufactured, it's very much so in intent and can still take on a life if properly focused on by the filmmakers. For this film, Yip clearly was going to use as much means as possible available to him via mainstream filmmaking while presenting a simple romantic tale. An intriguing choice if you ask me and Leaving Me Loving You really is an eye popping, attractive package in many ways. The cinematography by Pun Yiu Ming is so colourful, glossy and professional that you instantly wonder if director Yip is really doing the better of his work for the city of Shanghai rather than to the fans of his films. In the end, after the first act really is exhaustingly visual, that aspect isn't what is disappointing.
It holds no complex themes or messages and chooses a nice low-key way of presenting Chow and Yuet's problems as a couple. Scriptwriter Kwok Tsz Min brings up issues of commitment fear but the central one, about letting go too fast is really the main theme. Love surely can be so overwhelming that you go through the cycles of it way too fast. The latter holds true for Leon Lai's Chow who, as we learn in short flashbacks and dialogue, ended him and Yuet because he thought he saw flaws. Since the two are handling the same client, he's constantly reminded of the beauty he left behind and his naive decision becomes very apparent, to us and him.
That plot strand has much possibilities for director Yip to work wonders with but he never seems to be able to ignite it. Not until we're very late into the film that is and therefore he has to rush to tie things up Character developments are indeed expected ones but this mentioned sprint through the last act still rings of running time restraints. Otherwise, the character dynamic between Chow and Yuet works reasonably well as she is a rather hard sell in terms of contemplating Chow's suggestions to try once more. She isn't about to let that wound open again and she clearly was hurt by the sudden breakup. The backstory romance is touched upon in flashbacks but I felt Yuet's part in the relationship was missing. Was she really the perfect girlfriend and Chow a complete idiot for breaking up or was there any other reason? It leans towards the first but we do see hints of, maybe arrogance in the way she acts professionally and that may have been a perfectly good reason for Chow to break up. Yip achieves the biggest success when the two are all alone on screen and not influenced much by the visuals or the supporting cast. There sadly is too much of the latter for my tastes and what the movie therefore may have needed was added length, to focus even more on Chow and Yuet.
The score by Mark Lui is one of the flaws of the film as it's so relentlessly pounding over the big shots of Shanghai that you wonder if you missed feeling some emotions the filmmakers did themselves. It actually betters itself as we get more into the two person-romance and choices here in the simplest form produces nice atmospherics.
Actors Leon Lai and Faye Wong does fare well and display a nice, cold chemistry that speaks that suitable volumes about their relationship. Leon is slightly more expressive than usual but this is a film that caters more to his calm persona so he's not called upon much out of the ordinary. Faye Wong, in a rare screen appearance, is so beautiful that the movie becomes worthwhile just to see how Pun Yiu Ming will shoot her next. Also, she does perform Yuet in a good way, not missing to convey that sense of not giving in and remembering what harm was done to her inside instead. Fine support comes from the elderly actor (sorry, don't know the gentlemen's name) playing Mr. Man.
I wouldn't regard Leaving Me Loving You as a setback for Wilson Yip as he clearly had some ideas that didn't manage to be executed as well as he had hoped for. It's all about taking risks and I feel there was well-intent behind the project, which also involved actor Leon Lai to a larger degree behind the scenes (he shares story credit with Yip and acted as creative director). In the end, Leaving Me Loving You is slightly better than most romances out of Hong Kong lately and opting to be a slightly more mature one is a choice I always welcome. Yip's career is far from over though and fans have not yet, and should never forget his already produced classics out of the drama genre. There will be more opportunities for him to shine in the future. The city of Shanghai in this film thoroughly shine but not enough to save the film that only occasionally sparkles.
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! I was under the impression that Widesight went out of business but here they are again, handing the dvd release of Wilson Yip's latest. It's not all bad though even though Widesight will always remain Widesight.
The non-anamorphic transfer, framed at 2.35:1 for roughly half the film but changes to 2:24.1 later on for some reason, looks very sharp for the most part, revealing satisfying detail and colour. The print is also completely damage free.
The movie was shot in sync sound Mandarin and that is presented on a Dolby Digital-EX 6.1 track. Music sounds wonderful in the front channels and certain select effects are well integrated into the mix. Same option exists for the Cantonese dub and a Cantonese DTS-ES 6.1 is also available.
The English/Chinese subtitles are burned onto the print with the English translation residing in the letterbox frame (meaning this is not straight from a theatrical print). They are flawless throughout and readable so no problems there other than the fact that they're not optional. No extras are included but the limited edition comes with postcards, photo book and a making of featurette.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson