“Love in Time” is an old fashioned Hong Kong romantic comedy directed by Leefire, a multi-talented type also known as a playwright, radio host and song writer, following up on his not entirely successful 2007 “Give Love”, which he co-helmed with Joe Ma. Now making his solo debut, he offers up another slightly leftfield take on the genre, with popular TVB actor Bosco Wong (“Together”) and actress Stephy Tang (“East Meets West”) headlining as a couple of (hopefully!) distant cousins falling in love, with support from Sammy Leung (“Love Undercover”), Danny So (“The Way we Were”) and Zhao Ke (“Chase our Love”).
Bosco Wong plays Cho, an amiable slacker type, who scrapes out a living by selling ice cream from his truck with his amusingly named friend and roommate, the womanising Beer (Sammy Leung), living together in a small flat owned by his uncle. Things change when Cho is forced to take in his cousin Tina (Stephy Tang), not least since the two initially don’t seem to get on at all. As is usually the case, they slowly warm to each other and develop feelings, though matters are complicated when she finds a job working for suave interior designer Machi (Danny So), who she mistakenly believes is Daniel, her as yet unseen internet love. With Cho being the real Daniel though unable to admit his own passions, the scene is set for all manner of misunderstandings and odd couple style shenanigans.
“Love in Time” is one of those films which is all the more enjoyable for the simple fact that it doesn’t sound like much on paper. Certainly, the setup is familiar to a fault (the potentially distasteful and never developed issue that Cho and Tina are cousins aside), the plot predictable and the characters generic, and it’s obvious that little originality or creativity went into Leefire’s rather pedestrian script. However, the film really just kind of clicks in all the ways that matter, and it has the distinct and very pleasing feel of an authentic old school Hong Kong comedy, basically just following a couple of down on their luck buddies trying to make money and pick up girls. Cho and Beer (!) are a likeable pair, and it’s a great deal of fun watching them scheming and struggling to get by, the film having a natural and laid back charm. The central romance between Cho and Tina also rings sweetly true, and though the plot goes quite badly off the rails towards the end, its relationships are for the most part far more convincing and affecting than those of most other similarly themed efforts.
Leefire’s direction is also surprisingly solid, and the film has a pleasant visual style throughout with some eye catching moments and colourful production values. There’s an amiable pace to the drama, and the film neither takes itself too seriously nor ever goes overboard in terms of comedy, most of the laughs being character based rather than silly slapstick. The majority of the gags hit the target, though this is mainly due to the efforts of the cast rather than the script, with the stars all being good value for money.
Bosco Wong does a fine job in the lead, Cho being a flawed though decent sort who’s easy enough to root for, and Stephy Tang is cute and charismatic in her usual style, even managing a brief flash of French maid cosplay (a scene which for many will be worth the price of admission). As a screen couple they have the all-important spark and chemistry needed to make the viewer care whether they’ll end up together or not, and this gives the films romance element a real boost. Though Danny So has a bit of a one note role, Sammy Leung puts in a lively performance as Beer, making for comic relief and having a surprisingly substantial subplot of his own.
While none of this amounts to anything truly special or memorable, “Love in Time” is nevertheless very entertaining and much better than it should have been, even for those who normally steer well clear of romantic comedies. There’s a certain innocence and charm at play here that sets it apart from the increasingly brash materialism of many other Chinese genre films, and Leefire manages to hold the interest and strike mostly the right notes despite the over-familiarity of it all.
Leefire (director) / Leefire, Li Yun (screenplay)
CAST: Bosco Wong