“Hi, Fidelity” writer director Calvin Poon returns with pan-Asian romantic comedy “Shadows of Love”, this time backed by acclaimed film maker Stanley Kwan (“Rouge”, “Centre Stage”) lending his talents as producer. The film features a high profile lead pairing in Kwon Sang Woo, one of Korea’s top stars, known for his roles in a variety of hit television series such as “Lady President” and “Cinderella Man”, as well as big screens outings “Pain” and “71 – Into the Fire”, and popular Chinese actress Cecilia Cheung (“Legendary Amazons”), continuing her career comeback. The Chinese production (Kwon’s first Chinese language outing) also boasts a supporting cast of up and coming Mainland and Taiwanese talents, including Singer Angela Chang (“10+10”), Jing Boran (“Love in Space”), Jing Tian (“The Warring States”) and male model Sphinx Ting, with all-time favourite Hong Kong character actor Richard Ng (“My Lucky Stars”) on hand in a small but very welcome appearance.
The plot is standard, “Prince and the Pauper” inspired stuff, with Cheung as Paris, a spoiled, arrogant rich girl heiress, whose disappearance after a skiing trip gives her sneaky Uncle Dong (Cheng Tai Shen, “The Four”) the chance to take over her corporation in her absence. Her boyfriend and CEO Quan Zhengxun (Kwon Sang Woo) comes up with a desperate scheme to try and save the company, paying a flower shop working lookalike called Qin Xin (also Cheung) to impersonate her. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, what with her being a simple girl unused to high society and riches, and Zhengxun has to put her through intensive training, with help from Paris’ cousin (Jing Tian) and her dance instructor (Sphinx Ting). Inevitably, things get complicated when he starts to fall for her, only for the real Paris to show up at a suitably dramatic moment.
Most viewers, whether fans of the rom com or not, will be able to tell exactly where “Shadows of Love” is going from the above synopsis, and indeed it’s not a film likely to be accused of originality or ambition. To a large degree, it’s an example of box ticking film making, with the primary aim of satisfying, rather than challenging or surprising genre fans and casual audiences. To be fair, Calvin Poon seems very aware of this, and the unpretentious film spends most of its running time trying to entertain and deliver on its modest premise, and on this score it does well enough. Benefitting from the influence of Stanley Kwan, Poon manages to keep things moderately engaging, and the film is generally well made (aside from some very bizarre use of freeze frames and slow motion), and clocking in at less than hour and a half, is an admirably brisk piece of business.
Though imminently predictable, the film is boosted by some likeable characters and decent performances from its big name leads, Cecilia Cheung on more charismatic form than she has been of late and genuinely appearing to have been having fun with her dual roles, and Kwon Sang Woo anchoring the film while looking handsomely confused. Their inevitable burgeoning romance, despite lacking in any emotional depth, is fun to watch, and the film manages to be both cutesy and vaguely charming, hitting most of the right notes when it counts. Things are livened up by some comic moments and by a few odd touches here and there, including Cheung having a strange psychic sixth sense for trouble (used mainly as an excuse to move the plot on in inadvertently amusing fashion), and by the film occasionally diving off into surprisingly well handled and effective wartime flashbacks involving her grandmother.
These help to distract somewhat from the over familiarity of “Shadows of Love”, and to make it a perfectly watchable diversion for rom com devotees. Fans of Cecilia Cheung and Kwon Sang Woo should also find plenty to enjoy, Calvin Poon getting good value for money out of his leading couple and giving both lots of moments to raise a smile.
Yuen-Leung Poon (director) / Bing Wu (screenplay), Yuen-Leung Poon (screenplay)
CAST: Cecilia Cheung … Paris
Sang-woo Kwone … Kwon
Angela Chang … Siu Ham