'Man in love' movie review: A problematic premise overshadows a beautiful love story

Directed by Yin Chen-hao, Man in Love is a Taiwanese remake of the 2014 South Korean film bearing the same title.

Published: 21st August 2021 10:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2021 10:06 AM   |  A+A-

A still from 'Man in Love'.

A still from 'Man in Love'.

Express News Service

Directed by Yin Chen-hao, Man in Love is a Taiwanese remake of the 2014 South Korean film bearing the same title. Both full-length features are based on a highly problematic premise, and if it weren’t for that said premise, the film would certainly have enough going for it to be called engaging, if not good. Man in Love’s aforementioned foundation rankles long after it is played out, so much so that even the most moving, lovable and endearing parts of the ill-fated romance between the leads is tarnished because of the poor taste of their story’s beginning.

The film bases its initial storyline on the oldest of patriarchal clichés. A man fancies a woman who doesn’t reciprocate his advances. Owing to the circumstances, a clear power differential is at play. Though she is spirited and firm, rebuffing his consistent attempts at engagement, he doesn’t know when to call it quits. And the more she pushes back, the more his interest grows. In short, the film basically tells the viewer that wearing down her reserves long enough will eventually result in her reciprocating your interest. Sound familiar? Umpteen projects, especially Indian ones, perpetuate this dangerous, sexist stereotype. Man in Love takes it one step further by romanticising this kind of behaviour. It moves on from that shaky ground to bigger and better things, but the sense of unease fails to leave you.

Ah Cheng (Roy Chiu) is presented as this large-hearted loan shark bent on doing good despite a dangerous reputation preceding him. He is boorish, loud, and violent, but if a shopkeeper’s kid is in hospital, the debt may be repaid later (Cheng does the man one better by providing cash for his son’s medicines). Hao Ting (Ann Hsu) is a no-nonsense bank teller caring for her comatose father. She comes to know of his bad debts one evening at the hospice when Cheng and his shady entourage come calling. They push her around, threatening her with more than an innuendo or two, but she remains defiant. She has no choice but to sign the debt note, though. With her father’s hospital bed in the balance and money short at hand, she is forced to take up Cheng’s offer – go on dates with him (to restaurants and on walks) a certain number of times until he feels the debt is paid off in full.

The thing about Man in Love is that it has the potential to be a deeply romantic film, and makes it there every now and then. Ann Hsu and Roy Chiu play the parts of Hao and Cheng so well. We root for them and empathise with their challenging life circumstances. Sacrifice and redemption are the two major themes of the second half. Cheng’s love for Hao (and her reciprocity) makes him re-evaluate his choices and attempt to be a better person; his self-destructive tendencies prevent him from changing for himself, so he does it for her. Cheng is inspired to be his best self when he’s with Hao.

Even the guilt he experiences from his family (his father, especially) for being a perpetual no-gooder, is handled rather deftly too. The key is that he keeps on trying to improve with each passing frame. Several extended and intense scenes of this half of the narrative can almost be termed beautiful, what with their evocative touch. The writing, while simplistic, does make you engage with their story. That basic premise on which the Cheng-Hao saga begins is the problem, sadly. Other parts of the film cannot be taken in isolation while reviewing the leads’ complicated romantic relationship. If there were, say, a different basis to it, who is to tell how impactful Man in Love could have gone on to be?

Director: Yin Chen-hao
Cast: Roy Chiu, Ann Hsu
Streaming on: Netflix


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