Love is a word I believe that cannot be truly understood. Just as life–love is, well…complicated. Not all in’s and out’s of love can be described and not all ends of it can be maintained. But what is indefinite of love, is the feeling of being in love–something the mind and soul refuses to forget for those of whom are fortunate. In director Andrew Lau‘s first romantic drama, A Beautiful Life test love’s imperfections that will eventually unite two people in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
After enduring a painful break-up, Fang Zhengdong (Ye Liu) decides tofocus only on his job as a Police Officer, and caring for his disabled brother Fang Zhencong (Liang Tian). Li Peiru (Qi Shu) is into real estate who moved from Hong Kong to Beijing, and having an affair with a married man. The two meet at a karaoke bar where Li is drinking, entertaining clients; and Fang with a few of his cop buddies. Li, drunk and falling over herself, runs into Fang in the men’s restroom then eventually, vomits on him. Being the upstanding cop that he is, he assists Li by giving her a ride home. When at her home, she comes on to Zhengdong–she bit his arm after trying to kiss him–but he refuses her advances and writes her a little note about what the cab costs, and that alcohol is bad for her.
They meet again after her car blocked a taxi stall, she gave him her card; they meet again in a grocers market. She remembers him for his kindness. He remembers her for her voice, how she says his full name “Fang Zhengdong” whenever she sees and phones him–and maybe too, because she bit him on the arm.
What is love?
Thereafter, their “relationship” endures minor series of difficulties. Li’s centered on the financial well-being of her family and losing money to the man she was having an affair with; and Zhendong losing his job because he allows himself to be influence by Li, and briefly stalks her former lover. She eventually persuades Zhendong to loan her money and after failing another attempt at establishing a business, she runs off to Hong Kong–and Zhendong diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Here’s the part where love is tempered by it’s sadness: after spending a few years away from Beijing and Zhendong; Li realizes just how much she truly missed him. Not just because she owed him money–because of his kindness. She realizes she truly cares for him. So she goes to look for her lost love. When she could no longer find him at his old job and in the streets where he patrolled, she files a missing person report. Eventually she finds where he is, along with the news of his illness.
When she finds him in an outside market, pouring over his list of foodstuffs again, and again. She calls out to him, “Fang Zhendong,” he remembered her voice, and how much he loved her. Also, I am not spoiling the details in telling you that eventually they marry and have a child. It is how they get to that point what’s endearing.
It isn’t a perfect film, but neither is love.
Director Lau envelops the tried and true foundation of romantics in film – boy meets girl; boy falls in love with girl; girl is confused and misinterprets love as ownership; love goes unrequited; and eventually–opposites attract. In the end, the woman eventually realizes the other’s humility and tries to ‘seek out’ again the unexpected. I thought of Bridgett Jones Diary when I better understood the premise of this film, however, unlike in Bridgett Jones Diary, this film and their love isn’t too predictable.
I understood they would eventually be together–but there was enough ‘in-between’ drama that fulfilled all the gaps in-between the misunderstandings–he wasn’t sure she cared about him, still, every time she called him he was there and she found comfort in that he would be. It was a ‘mature’ drama-romance. Although it had its predictable melancholy moments: her leaving him; and him being diagnosed with a debilitating illness (usually someone in these types of film eventually falls ill)–each moment is compelling.
A Beautiful Life is a unique film. Intoxicating, sad, and most certainly a tear jerker–as their love isn’t completely unexpected, it’s just more apparent towards the end. It will leave you believing that anything’s possible and even in those amnesia induced events, where Zhengdong forgets where he last put his money, or items on his shopping list–when he forgets to meet Li at work, he always remembers just how much he loves her.