When I Fall In Love...With Both (2000)
Directed by: Samson Chiu
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Corresponding over the internet, three women share their life tales and tribulations, all being very similar at core. In Singapore, TV-reporter Joy (Fann Wong - Shanghai Knights) meets all round nice guy with the perfect ideals, baker Sam (Peter Ho). They establish a bond that quickly turns to love but in Joy's love life also resides co-worker Chi Sing (James Lye - 2000 AD) who can offer her a stability that Sam can't. Joy however can't wrap her head around who to choose...
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, Cherry (Theresa Lee - Big Bullet, Lunch With Charles) goes through pre-marriage routines with her since long boyfriend, now fiancee Wu (James Chan). When his twin brother Wen (Sean Chan, real life twin brother of James) joins the frey, Cherry unexpectedly sees a freedom in Wen that she doesn't seem to get within her stable relationship with Wu...
Hong Kong native Cecilia (Michelle Reis - Bakery Amour) struggles with economic pressures along with her long time boyfriend Nam (Alex Fong - One Nite In Mongkok). With him quickly losing hope, she gets a breakthrough when she lands a job in a bridal shop in Macau. Separated from Nam but reunited with a childhood friend Tung (David Wu - Full Throttle) begins her journey of questions and choices, ones amped to grave levels when she receives the news that she's pregnant without knowing whether Nam or Tung is the father...
Samson Chiu finally in this reviewer's eyes emerges as one of the underrated filmmakers of Hong Kong cinema with When I Fall In Love...With Both, a Derek Yee produced romantic drama containing the theme of having to choose between the two loves of your life or should you really choose at all? Chiu, most likely familiar to viewers as the director of the Golden Chicken movies proved with the solid What A Wonderful World back in 1996 that there existed a more mature frame of mind in the filmmaker but Chiu brings his stocks up to an all time high with this splendid 2000 production.
Threatening to only take When I Fall In Love...With Both sweet and generic places (which is not a bad thing), Chiu, co-writing with the author of the novel Siu Kwun Hung, logs a relentless speed to the development of the initial story set in Singapore. Characters meet, fall in love and the central choice is brought out after probably 15 minutes of screen time only! Chiu, Siu and producer Derek Yee are clearly opting for enough development throughout each story rather than to set everyone up and that is a choice that succeeds as the team never lets go of their character's issues, which turn out to be rather complex ones.
The structure only occasionally jumps back and forth between the women's stories and When I Fall In Love...With Both really are 3 mini-movies in one, sharing the same train of thoughts but thankfully each story strand stands out on its own and grows in what I like to call its simple complexity. Fann Wong and Peter Ho's segment remains straight, uncomplicated but here Chiu's sincerity behind the simplicity is greatly affecting. He also first plants the notion here of choosing between the man of secure status or the one that you love so much it hurts, a central theme that could've halted at shallow but nuances brought out in low-key performing and direction reveal that this very realistic issue has depth. The Hong Kong story brings up the same scenario but plays it out against the desires of fate while Chiu later in the largely set Macau segment celebrates the female individual strength and we're given hints that no choice may ultimately be done due to lack of responsibility on behalf of the males. Some economical struggles commentary sneaks in as per a million modern day Hong Kong dramas but never becomes bothersome as such. Also, after you've gotten over the fact that Joy, Cherry and Cecilia are magically sharing more or less the same predicament, you'll find a highly mature and affecting love stories within the film.
Samson Chiu is blessed with this being a Film Unlimited production (Derek Yee's company) and the strengths that Yee usually brings are apparent here as many elements are no doubt familiar but executed with a suitably low-key sensibility and sincerity. The kleenex might come in handy but not due to hysteric melodrama akin to Fly Me To Polaris but thanks to easily accessible character arcs that also easily register emotionally. With an ensemble cast of those slightly below A-level, Chiu further enhances his desired depth and realism as well.
Reuniting Fann Wong and Peter Ho (who both starred in Derek Yee's The Truth About Jane & Sam the year before) reveals their still strong chemistry as a romantic screen duo while Theresa Lee's cutesy behaviour combined with her internal struggles of having to decide which twin to be with is a further testament to her delightful screen presence (Big Bullet not included), one that's sorely missed. However Michelle Reis emerges as the true standout here with a subtle performance, definitely the most challenging in the film. Being part of a relationship that never seems to emerge from the rubble of poverty, she gains strength of her own, especially in the light of both potential fathers resigning responsibility. It's the most harrowing story if you will but with Reis as his leading lady for this portion of the film, Chiu has his confidence in the subtle filmmaking style up high.
The supporting acts by David Wu and Alex Fong are equally integral, with the former being the most daring move casting-wise. Wu seems too eccentric for Reis to choose him as the needed security in her life but this bold move by Chiu and for sure Yee is a worthwhile one as Wu becomes a character that rarely gets a chance to shine in these movies, the nice, dorky one. Alex Fong is in tune with the lowly and self-humiliating Nam, handling melodrama in his trademark quiet way which makes the performance all the better.
Working for Derek Yee's Film Unlimited, Samson Chiu confidently brings what is to be expected from a movie bearing that production company logo. Well-meant, well-executed, increasingly complex but rooted in reality so anyone can relate to and be affected by the central theme of choosing love or security. You don't get this much well-honed instincts with romances these days. Savour it and Samson Chiu, you're welcome to make more films, despite the Golden Chicken films not reaching the gem level of When I Fall In Love...With Both.
Universe presents the film in a 1.79.1 framed aspect ratio approximately. Print is certainly watchable and clean but suffers from a lack of detail while certain scenes are on the dark side.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track mostly seems to use post-synced dialogue in Cantonese but Fann Wong and Peter Ho was shot in synch sound Mandarin so you might want to switch to that track during their segments. Neither track really strays outside of the center other than some distracting dialogue that is directed towards the side speakers. Sounds reasonably clear though.
The English subtitles contains no apparent errors throughout in terms of grammar or spelling and comes off as a clear translation. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.
The usual Universe extras turn up, starting with a plethora of English and Chinese language Star's Files for Michelle Reis, Theresa Lee, Alex Fong, Peter Ho and Fann Wong. Some remain shorter than others due to the performer's brief careers so far (Fong is the veteran here yet gets the smallest bio though) but a reasonable amount of info can be had in this section. Trailers for When I Fall In Love...With Both, Tokyo Raiders and Twelve Nights are also available.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson