6 January 2008 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Linger
A romance movie may be simple to make, but also amongst the most difficult. Almost every other movie out there has a romantic angle in it, and if the movie is one that has it as a primary, it either be something jolly good to appeal to the masses with a strong storyline, or be differentiated through the many gimmicks like time travel or the supernatural, or contain charismatic and beautiful leads to shoulder the movie.
Johnnie To has decided to take a temporal walk away from his contemporary crime thrillers of late, and gone into the romance genre. This isn't something new though, as he had lent his hand in directing romantic flicks like Turn Left, Turn Right. I still maintain that romance may not be his forte, but it only means that he should get more capable scriptwriters to craft a story of more substance, rather than to have the story feel as if it's coasting through trivial circumstance after trivial circumstance, that even the gimmicks employed - ghostly apparitions and novelty like being the male lead Vic Chou's movie debut, fail to lift the movie from baseline mediocrity.
Vic plays Dong, a school basketball player who cheats on his school flower girlfriend to get into the pants of Yan (Li Bing Bing), whom he discovers trying to taunt his girlfriend with their secret trysts. Frustrated, he chases her car in a motorcycle, and in one of the most ridiculous scenes ever in trying to find out if she loves him or not, deserved to die for his dumb recklessness.
Fast forward 3 years, and Yan is now a law clerk, but cannot forget the guilt and responsibility she felt for causing Dong's death. Relying on drugs to get by, she soon gets visited by Dong (yes, he waited for 3 years to decide to linger around, hence the title), and the two begin a journey of quaint discovery of themselves, and of their love toward one another, all this while with many forgettable supporting characters (like the impetuous teenager who is a Dong-wannabe) trying very hard to either compensate for the weak leads, or thrown in to create yet another convoluted, unnecessary sub plot, like themes of family, of second changes, reconciliation and forgiveness, bloating what is essentially short film material into a feature length.
There are many faults in the movie, which at times passes off as cheap comedy. Ghosts, if you believe, usually linger around our realm so as to finish off outstanding business. Here, the outstanding business happens to be finding out if a girl loves you from 3 years ago, and waiting out quite vengefully for a dad to ask for forgiveness. However, Vic Chou comes across more as Casper style, the friendly ghost with zero character, made worst by his non existent acting. Bottom line is, he crashes and burns in his big screen outing, playing an unremarkable character that his limited acting ability can never transcend, apart from being whiny.
Li Bing Bing tries hard, but comes across as that - trying hard. If any good thing were to come out of this, it would be lending her vocals to the theme song. Otherwise, her Yan has nothing much to offer, character wise, being a girl who's trying to figure out her life out of drugs, and coming to terms with guilt, which is soothed by the reappearance of her ghostly lover.
You'll feel absolutely nothing at all for the lead characters, which point to a failure, especially for a romance movie. With a terribly weak storyline no thanks to Ivy Ho, it felt that To had to direct this in order to try and salvage the movie from its weak plot. However, you'd probably find more fun identifying each time a To regular like Maggie Shiu (as in the credits), Lam Suet and Roy Cheung appear on screen, rather than try to tear your hair out in giving an iota of chance for the story, and the leads, to work something out. Don't hold out for a satisfying ending though, as everything about the movie is way below average.
Vic Chou fans may only be the ones supporting a movie like this, having the much talked about love scene touted to see their idol bareback/chested. But urgh, on the big screen it has lots of zits. And sex with clothes on, under the blanket, is always such a turn off.