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Originally released in 2009, “Let’s Fall in Love” is a hugely popular documentary from Taiwanese director Wu Wuna (also credited in places as Wu Tairen) which sees her seeking out and following the efforts of top Taipei matchmaker extraordinaire, Chen Hailun. With 50% of marriages in Taiwan apparently ending in divorce, the country certainly seems to have a steady supply of potential customers for Chen, not to mention subjects for Wu. As with all of her films, where “Let’s Fall in Love” really stands out is that unlike other documentarians, Wu boldly and disarmingly places herself right in the middle of the drama, getting involved with Chen herself, and painfully sharing her own experiences and heartbreak.
Aside from Wu, the 90 minute film follows Chen as she fixes up a series of 20 or so couples, which range from the obviously good matches to some very unlikely pairings indeed. Determined to the point of being almost aggressive at times, Chen is not above pushing people together even when they seem reluctant, convincingly arguing that she knows them to be right for each other, whether they do or not. Although she does clearly enjoy a lot of success, many of her twosomes don’t work out, though at this stage she still seems only too happy to step in either as a therapist, counsellor, or to comfort them after things have gone bad.
It’s easy to see why “Let’s Fall in Love” has proved so popular, having emerged as a box office hit in Taiwan and an audience favourite at several international festivals, as it’s a film which really does have universal appeal. Through following couples of many types and at different stages in their relationships, Wu Wuna is able to explore love and marriage in great depth and with real insight, showing the many, many varying facets of love, from romantic and passionate to the practical and companionship driven, through to the bitter truth of people who stick together after the spark has gone, and marriages which, for a variety of reasons simply do not work. Given Chen’s tireless (and borderline obsessive) work in trying to make what she believes are carefully calculated and infallible matches (at least to the camera and her clients), the film asks whether or not it is possible to predict or coerce love.
Though this might sound a little sappy or if the film is only for romantically inclined viewers, it’s also very entertaining and enjoyable in a broader sense, with some of the more bizarre couples and their tales of how they ended up together making for a lot of genuinely funny moments. The film has a light touch throughout and fairly breezes along, not least since the occasionally outrageous Chen makes for such a great subject, always on hand for another match making scheme, and amusingly practical in her advice and adaptation to certain situations. Wu is an extremely talented director with a great eye for visuals and knack for pacing, and as a documentary the film is neatly constructed and edited, moving around between its many couples in a way which holds the interest throughout, keeping the viewer wondering which of them will end up together.
Ultimately though, it’s Wu Wuna and her own presence in the film that really makes it stand out as something special and gives it a genuine emotional spark. By going in front of the camera herself and sharing her own painful past, she bravely not only becomes part of the story, but fundamentally blurs the line between documentarian and subject. It’s hard not to be moved by scenes in which she breaks down and weeps as she recounts her failed relationships, though even then, she manages to keep enough of a focus as a director to ensure that these serve not as some kind of self-indulgent pseudo artistic confessionary, but to make her one with her subjects and the audience. This gives the film an incredibly intimate and down to earth feel, not to mention making it far more accessible than other more detached works with the same themes – after all, what could be more authentic or affecting than a film about searching for love made by, and about a director who is herself looking for Mr. Right?
Over the past decade, Wu Wuna has rapidly established a reputation both at home and overseas for exactly this kind of film making, and “Let’s Fall in Love” is not only one of her best, but one of her most fun and insightful works. As universal as it is personal, it’s a film which works on many different levels, and which has something to offer even the cynics or those who usually find documentaries to be a bit dry.
Let’s Fall in Love has its UK Premiere at the 2013 Chinese Visual Festival on Saturday 25th May at 15:00. For more info and tickets visit the CVF website.