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Original Title:
Nage shagua aiguo ni

China, Hong Kong 2007

Romance, Drama

Dennis Chan

Jia Zhongchao
Cathy Tsui
Bian Yuan
Jia Duoduo
Eric Tsang
Elaine Kam

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The Romantic Fool

Story: Student Xia (Jia Duoduo) wants to write a novel during her holidays. Therefore, she moves to an empty house, which her cousin arranges for her. One day she sees that the mail box of her neighbor is bursting with letters. With the help of her mail carrier she finds out who the owner of the empty house across the street is. She contacts the owner and informs her of the letters. But the woman just wants Xia to burn all of the letters.
Xia is too curious to just destroy the letters and so she reads them one after another. She learns about a love story, that took place several years ago:
Kai (Jia Zhongchao) falls in love with the new student at the university, beautiful Shuman (Cathy Tsui). However, she already has a boyfriend, namely Kai's best friend Mike (Bian Yuan). Kai tries everything in his power to at least stay close to Shuman. When Mike dumps his girlfriend, because he wants to go abroad, Kai realizes that this is his chance. Kai approaches Shuman and eventually succeeds in winning her over. But as things are, Shuman's father wants to leave the country with his daughter. Shuman's father meets with Kai and makes clear that he wants Kai to give up his love for Shuman...

Review: "The Romantic Fool" is a very atmospheric piece of work, that impresses with a great cinematography and tells a dreamy love story, even if it is of the kind we have heard many times already. Still, the director manages with ease to captivate the audience with his film. First, as already said this is mainly because of the great looking pictures, and second it is because of a nice storytelling. Unfortunately, the romantic story can't be fully convincing, as it loses itself in a few clichés every now and then, especially towards the end. Luckily, the movie doesn't completely become a tear-jerker drama, but this is only thanks to the warm atmosphere, which awakens a somewhat sweet and melancholic feeling in the viewer.

The story is told through many flashbacks with the help of the letters Xia found in the mail box of her neighbors. Somehow, this may remind us of "Il Mare", but actually the letter as a medium for telling a story, remains the only parallel to this movie. We are told a love story about a couple, that may already go seperate ways again. That's quite fascinating, as we are actually eager to hear how the story ends. Besides, according to certain universally applicatively movie rules, we expect Xia to somehow fit into this picture, too. And we don't get disappointed. Nevertheless, there are some flaws to point out, here. The story seems a bit too contrived and this becomes especially apparent at the end. Why the filmmakers had to implement another "big" twist, which shifts the tone to a drama isn't quite justifiable and takes away much of the movie's screen magic. It's almost as if the director came to the conclusion that he he had to add something special and moving at the end.

Sadly, this doesn't work out the way it was supposed to, and so the film proves to be less engaging and touching than it had the potential to be. The most touching scenes are actually those that stand out with a certain kind of simplicity or a little bit of subtlety. What's most disappointing is that the love story can't radiate the same warmth the pictures convey. In the end, the romance doesn't offer anything we haven't seen somewhere else already. Sure, there are some magical scenes, e.g. when Shuman asks for a cigarette and Kai goes to a shop and buys a package of every brand, as he doesn't know which flavor she prefers. The slow approaching between the two has its nice moments, there is no doubt about that, but then again the film also is just too jumpy at times. Why the hell, despite his strong love for Shuman, is Kai getting persuaded by Shuman's father to do something that he already knows he will regret in the future? It all gets presented a bit too constructed and unbelievable.

There are only decent portrayals of the actors, which is sad, as a little bit more effort surely would have benefited the overall quality. At least Jia Zhongchao succeeds in giving a credible performance as a quite, but interesting character, and ex-model Cathy Tsui as the sweet girl serves as some eye-candy. Moreover, there is also Eric Tsang in a supporting role as the mail carrier.
On a more positive note there are the great pictures that have to be pointed out. The lush green, with which natury is depicted, imbues the shots with a breathtaking beauty. Scenes like those in which the protagonists find shelter from the rain under the mighty branches of a tree, or the garden of the empty house, are all a feast for the eye. The dreamy atmosphere, that is created by these pictures really adds a lot to "The Romantic Fool" and almost makes the film something special, despite the many obvious flaws.

Then again, Dennis Chan's film is truly less spectacular and more average than it deserves it. Nonetheless, the director always manages with some nice humorous scenes and Kai's believable and likeable character to weave a bond to the viewer and to maintain the audience's interest for the story. Furthermore, the romantic pictures are accompanied by a fitting score, so that it's just the in the end artificial story and a few serious flaws, like the fact the the friendship between Mike and Kai is conveyed a bit too shallow, and that the film towards the end tries too hard to go for some tears, which flaw the overal picture.
Because of its wonderful pictures and the dreamy atmosphere "The Romantic Fool" almost would have deserved a better rating, but for this the film proves to be too mediocre, eventually. However, if you are interested in these kind of movies then the great pictures are a good argument to go for this romantic flick.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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