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Drawn from a Zhang Zhi novella, yet taking its behavioural cues from the much-reproduced photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue, this goofy Chinese Valentine’s Day release hinges on the link between ballerina Qiu Qian (Yitong Li) and Lin (Hong-chi Lee), a greying coot who collapses backstage after one of her shows. Her interest is piqued after she enters his dishevelled lodgings and finds what’s apparently a novel based on her experiences; ours by the fact the old man is visibly a young actor glued into whiskery latex. Could this stranger bear some relation to Lin Ge, the ballerina’s childhood sweetheart, who once pulled a magic watch from a lake?
For up-and-coming director Yoyo Yao, it’s an opportunity to stage a cutesy romance within the framework of an initially baffling spatiotemporal mystery, as per Groundhog Day or the recent Palm Springs. Her flashbacks fall on the bland side, offering twentysomething high-schoolers, gifts of plum-infused water, and a dog called Niam Niam. Yao also can’t resist the Bollywood trope of a mid-film jolly to Europe – here, the Czech Republic – complete with variable turns from the local day players. More assured are those scenes in which Qiu Qian and pals wonder whether reading A Brief History of Time, rather than cheating on their physics finals, might have better prepared everybody for this eventuality.
If it weren’t so inherently loopy, the premise – man spends decades transcribing a woman’s every movement – might seem questionable; it’s another of those romcoms that has to stage a charm offensive to nudge us all past some extremely committed stalking. Some of that charm comes from the appealing leads, playing out variations on the same characters: doubtless some relief for Li, seeing as Qiu Qian is introduced as a wide-eyed simpleton with amnesiac tendencies.
Heart-on-sleeve hooey, it can’t fail to slap a smile on your face at some point, although that smile runs increasingly thin as the film nears the two-hour mark. There are stretches of second-half sap where your own, non-magic watch seems to stop dead.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Love You Forever review – loopy, time-bending romcom | Romance films