Story: Naoki Mizushima (Masahiro Motoki) is a make-up stylist who is internationally highly respected and therefore is hired for a Music
Award Show in Shanghai. He is married for a few years already but the distance between him and his wife Miho (Naomi Nishida) grows with every
year. They don't talk with each other anymore and now Miho is only his manager who takes care of his appointments. Mizushima is also aware that
someone else has an interest in his wife and asks himself how his marriage is going to continue. In order to get some room to breathe he takes
a walk through nighttime Shanghai. However, he is accidentally knocked down by female taxi driver Lin Xi (Vickie Zhao) who is keen to make
up for her mistake by driving the man around and showing him the city. The language barrier isn't a big problem for the two, only when Lin gets
a call and is told that her secret love Dong Dong (Dylan Kuo) is about to marry she needs to get rid of her guest somehow, which proves to be
a more difficult task than she first thought since she neither knows his name nor at which hotel he has reserved a room.
Review: There are romantic dramas that manage to fully hit the mark despite some corny scenes and thus make it difficult for you to pinpoint
exactly why this is the case. In "The Longest Night in Shanghai" it's most likely thanks to the charismatic and natural looking Vickie Zhao and director
Zhang Yibai's keen sense for the small details that constitute a relationship. This is the reason why despite some not really insignificant
flaws this romantic film manages to be touching and therefore stands as one of those a bit underestimated works that can touch a special string in our heart
with its bittersweet tone of love, loss and the realization of that loss. Furthermore, the director makes use of the framework of his movie to declare
his love to the city Shanghai in a very special way. We instantly feel at home in this city, the fact that the movie takes place during one single
night also bestows something fateful and condensed which makes us grow fond of the characters.
Mizushima is a rather reserved individual who doesn't talk about himself and his problems. This is also what eventually destroys the relationship with his wife. They are actually only living parallel lives and especially Mizushima doesn't do anything to help the relationship grow. That he and his wife aren't happy the way things are is pretty obvious for him for a while already but that's the way it is and changing things isn't something he is interested in at first. In fact, one of the two has to end things finally, but since Miho doesn't want to be the one who makes this decision for him, too, they continue to struggle through life. And this even though there obviously is someone who is interested in Miho and follows her wherever he can. Mizushima is quite aware of that as well. When he then starts to take a walk through the streets of Shanghai it is as if he is on a self-discovery journey. He hopes to eventually find the answers to the questions he didn't want to ask himself for so long.
Mizushima is played by Masahiro Motoki ("Departures"). However, his portrayal is difficult to judge. The moments in which he shows his inner suffering are very subtly played by him and brought to screen quite well, the scenes he shares with Vickie Zhao aren't always that convincing, though. This leads to the chemistry between the two main actors not being a hundred percent right. Here it is Vickie Zhao ("Mulan", "Painted Skin") who manages to bring the necessary likeability factor into the relationship that unfolds between the lonely taxi driver and the stylist. She has a natural loveliness to her that can instantly win over the viewer. Her role is actually quite simple but she manages to give her character several rough edges so that it's her in the end who carries the film on her shoulders. She is a bit of a tomboy, has to take care of her little brother, who needs money for the university and never gives her a helping hand with the household chores, and apart from that also has a secret love interest.
She is interested in a mechanic who works for the taxi company. In order to see him she also doesn't refrain from causing some small damage to her car every now and then, but she never musters up the courage to confess her love. When it turns out that Dong Dong is about to marry Lin Xi is devastated. Lin and Mizushima both carry wounds in their hearts and although they can't communicate verbally they share their pain with each other and an unusual relationship develops between the two. Their common trip through the city is a trip into their inner self and in the nightly streets of Shanghai you feel snug and warm at once. It's also this feeling that the two protagonists discover with time which makes them drum up the courage to take their lives into their own hands again. The way the subject love is dealt with is mostly very honest and offers room for some bittersweet moments. The little short story compilation "About Love" already featured a segment by director Zhang Yibai that has a lot of parallels to this movie and gives an impression what kind of sweet pain love can be.
Not everything works well in "The Longest Night in Shanghai", though. The movie is too long and there are even some additional side stories interspersed that simply is no space for in the movie. There is Miho and her admirer, but also the wacky and extroverted Yamako, played by Naoto Takenaka ("Shinjuku Incident", "Nodame Cantabile"), who in one of the few humoristic moments can give a funny performance as Bruce Lee. The humor really can be quite surprising at some points and cause some laughter, only Mizushimas physical comedy, which most likely is supposed to be funny, can't be convincing and sometimes even seems a bit awkward. There are also some missteps concerning the dialogues that can drift into more corny realms. But a nice soundtrack featuring many western pieces and director Zhang's fine sense for what's important leave only goodwill with the viewer. "The Longest Night in Shanghai" is no romantic drama without flaws but in a subtle way it touches where it has to. This makes it a movie that deserves some more attention!