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Original Title:
Heung joh chow heung yau chow

Hong Kong 2003

Romance, Comedy

Johnny To
Wai Ka-Fai

Takeshi Kaneshiro
Gigi Leung
Terri Kwan
Edmund Chen
Lam Suet
Shu Wei-Lum

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Turn left turn right

Story: John Liu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is an excellent violinist. Unfortunately, his talent has yet to be discovered by someone. Liu is very popular with women because of his looks, but he is not only very shy, he also has a certain image of his ideal woman in his head.
Eve Choi (Gigi Leung) is a professional literature translator and has to translate the newest german horror-novel. Instead she so much more would like to translate polish love poems, but her boss doesn't give her the opportunity.
The life of John and Eve is empty and they are missing something. When one day they meet at a fountain by chance, they know what it is. Since their childhood, when John met Eve at a school trip, they were looking for each other. The two spend a nice day together, but a weather change forces them to depart in a hurry. They exchange phone numbers and go seperate paths again.
Unluckily, the rain smeared the phone numbers and the two don't even know the name of each other.
Although there is a good chance to meet again in a city like Taipei, they don't come across each other by chance, another time.
The two also don't know, that they are living in the exact same building and that they are only seperated by a thin wall. It seems like destiny has a grudge against John and Eve, because every time John turns left, Eve turns right...

Review: Johnny To and Wai Ka-Fai once again work together making a commercial romance with two Pop-Stars in the lead.
No reason to stop reading!
No, "Turn left turn right" is in fact a a well done romance. First of all, that's due to the story which is based on a famous novel of Jimmy Liao. Ok, you're right, the story isn't that original, but it is told with heart, humor and an eye for small details.

"Turn left turn right" is a movie about fate and the unpredictabel paths it takes. We get introduced to the lifes of the two main protagonists and they pretty soon already meet each other. Everything seems perfect, but after their rash seperation the two have nothing more than an unidentifiable phone number. It's here where the movie starts to get interesting.
We share feelings of sadness and yearning along with the main protagonists, and more than once we feel amused and hopeless for the two, when we see how often they just pass by each other seperated only by inches. Herein lies the cleverness of the movie. Although John and Eve are seperated by only a few yards, they seem to be eternally apart from each other. Johnny To and Wai Ka-Fai manage it to capture those scenes with that certain indefinable something. For example when they lean at the same wall, presented in a split-screen, or when they just pass through the same crowd. John and Eve do also interact with the same persons and objects, but there are always a few minutes that prevent them from meeting each other, which gives "Turn left turn right" its typical bitter-sweet flair.
Yet, there is also some sore point about that stylistic use. Since John and Eve are saying and doing nearly exactly the same just not at the same time, the movie becomes sometimes repetitive. At first this is very nice and adds to the atmosphere of the movie, but soon it gets tiresome and you have to ask yourself if the movie would have had only half the length if one would have done without it.

Takeshi Kaneshiro in comparison to his previous roles plays a more unusual role as the shy and introverted man. He is quite convincing, yet you don't have to expect a brilliant performance. It's the same with Gigi Leung. She is also doing a solid job and you instantly believe her as you do with Kaneshiro, that the two are soul mates. However, the script doesn't provide much depth for the characters. Nonetheless, it's more than enough so that we can care about them.
While Kaneshiro impresses with his violin skills (once again), Gigi Leung charmes our ear with nice broken German (and Polish). A nice bonus for the german viewer, who watches the movie in its original dubbing.

Technically, there is nothing to be criticized. To and Wai know their stuff and create a at the same time cheerful, but also sometimes joyless atmosphere full of longing. They even succeed in avoiding cheesy scenes when John and Eve are happy together, by always implementing a little bit of irony.
Apart from the search of the two lovers, which nearly gets unbearable because of all the missed chances, there is also a more funny part in the movie. This is mainly the work of Terri Kwan and Edmund Chen. Kwan plays a noodleshop-waitress, who when making deliverys for John and Eve soon discovers that the two are searching for another. However, she doesn't prove to be a female knight in shining armor, but instead wants John for herself. With Dr. Wu it's exactly the same, because he finds in Eve his old college love.
Even if their roles aren't that demanding, Kwan and Chen do a nice job in counterbalancing the melodramatic. And if nothing else, their conspiracy and interference in John and Eve's fate is at least entertaining.

"Turn left turn right" has its lengths and it wouldn't have caused it any harm to use the repetative storytelling a little bit more modest. Nevertheless, the story of the two main protagonists is told with an eye for details and can charm the viewer. The paths fate holds ready for our main protagonists are fascinating and there is even a message for the viewer. How else is the sudden ending to be explained and the strange way how the two lovers meet again? Anyway, it's probably more likely, that the directors suddenly became aware that they finally have to come to an end.

Those who want to complain that I overdid it with spoilering this time, have to be assured that "Turn left turn right", despite some nice surprises and its cleverness, is nonetheless quite predictable. Of course, there has to be a Happy End and we never doubt that, but luckily the path until then is paved with good romance comedy stuff.
Naturally, logic is nothing you should be looking for here, and so the question why John and Eve just didn't ask for their names when they spent the day together in the park, is not to be asked.
Those who don't have an aversion towards the genre, will be pleased with this movie. Or maybe it's just that over time all those Korean romantic comedys did make me soft...
Anyway, it can't be denied that "Turn left turn right" has something special about it which lifts it way above average!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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