OK but rather folded in on itself and time has not been overly helpful to it either
Lan Lan arrives in England from mainland China to live in London and study music at university, thanks to a kind sponsor who has agreed to pay her tutition fees. Not speaking English she struggles to find her way to her sponsor's house but is helped by the kindly Su Tong. The first night at her sponsor's home and Lan Lan learns that the fees being paid depends on her marrying the man's son, so the next morning she leaves and turns to Su Tong for help. Unwilling to go back to China, she tries to make her new life start in a flat with Su Tong and his friend Deng Lin.
A foreign film from the UK was an interesting proposition so I decided to give it a watch late one night and must admit to being left with mixed feelings about it. The fact that most things about it have dated was a bit of a problem; a lot has changed in regards immigration and community groups in a decade and watching the film now tended to make me think of how much more it would have in it if it was made today. Having said that, that isn't a fair complaint given that it was set when it was set. Instead of real insight into the community, this is a rather folded in love story that is built on restraint with a frame of need that love can't meet as easily as relationships of convenience. The drama is a bit folded in on itself but it was still pretty engaging thanks mainly to the characters being interesting.
The actors must receive the praise for a lot of this because their performances are natural and likable even when the material isn't doing that much to help them at times. Chen is fresh faced and convincing and she had me with her for the whole film. Liu and Chen are both good for different reasons and the three of them effectively keep the film going. Support is OK but really nobody is asked to do much outside of these three. The direction is a bit flat and I wasn't won over by it; despite being set in London and using locations it never felt like London, never managed a sense of place and the internal scenes were often too drab to work well because of being overly dark and hard to see.
Overall this was an OK film but time has not been kind to it. At its core it is a restrained love story of the type that has been done much better in, say, In The Mood For Love. The three performances from the leads do well to keep it up when the material falters occasionally and it is worth seeing if you know what you're getting.
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