Mark Chao and Angelababy help kick off Reel Asian in style with First Time.
FIRST TIME (Han Yan, China/Hong Kong). 106 minutes. Subtitled. Tuesday (November 6), 7 pm, Isabel Bader.
TORONTO REEL ASIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL from Tuesday (November 6) to November 11 in Toronto; November 16 and 17 in Richmond Hill. Various venues. $10-$20. See Indie & Rep Film, page 108. reelasian.com. Rating: NNN
Reel Asian's opening-night gala is a romantic melodrama about two very attractive young people (Mark Chao and Tai Chi Zero's Angelababy) who meet cute and embark on an epic love. But of course nothing's that simple.
Remaking a 2003 Korean weeper called ...ing, director Han Yan dives deep into the story's swoonier side, playing up its melancholy aspects (the lovers exchange cassette tapes in a motif that speaks to the innocence of a lost era) and hitting each emotional beat as hard as possible. Chao and Angelababy make a lovely couple, but the script dictates that they spend a lot of time apart. Hence those cassettes.
Fans of shamelessly manipulative romances with supposedly shocking twists will probably rate this a little higher; for my own part, I found it a little exasperating that the story keeps throwing curves even after the credits have rolled.