Dāng nánrén liàn'ài shí which translates to Man In Love in mandarin (Chinese) is a beautiful artwork that rightfully justifies its namesake. A small cast with arguably brilliant performance skills best describes the movie dynamics. The feature film is a commendable debut project for Taiwanese director Yin Chen-Hao. Man In Love is a remake of a 2014 South Korean film by the same name.
Released: 20th August 2021 (in Netflix)
Directed by: Yin Chen-Hao
Genre: Romance, Crime, Drama
Main Cast: Roy Chiu & Wei-Ning Hsu (aka Ann Hsu)
IMDb Rating: 7/10
MyDramaList Rating: 7.9/10
IMDb Synopsis: A small-time gangster clumsily attempts to court a girl he has a crush on. Can he win her over and leave the underworld behind?
# spoilers ahead. In case you want to watch the movie, go ahead and view my ratings first.
Ah Cheng (Roy Chiu) works as a loan shark and is infamous for all the wrong reasons i.e. surprisingly contrary to the ethics his profession demands, he is kind and helpful towards his debtors. Thus he is loved by the people. His extended family consists of his father, older brother, sister-in-law, and niece (whom he adores in his weird way). Ah Cheng had joined the shady organization to save his brother's business (barbershop) which was bearing losses and about to go bankrupt. Despite his influence, his family is honest and hard-working.
His days are all work and fun until suddenly one day the unexpected happens; he falls in love. And it was no ordinary love, he had fallen head over heels at first sight. His love interest was the daughter of one of his defaulters. The girl, Hao Ting (Ann Hsu) shoulders the debt of her paralyzed bed-ridden father. Ah Cheng comes up with a creative scheme that involves them dating each other as a means to pay the debt.
Hao Ting disagrees but Ah Cheng's continuous pestering melts her stubbornness. They continue dating but the effort is always one-sided; until the day Hao-Ting's father expires and she gets a glimpse of Ah Cheng's personality-his humble, considerate side. He helps with her father's funeral, which softens up Hao-Ting's image of the loan shark, making her adore him in a new light. The couple starts dating in real. In order to lead an honest life, Ah Cheng decides to quit the organization. But adversity strikes and he gets sucked into a bad scheme. In an attempt to profit and double their savings to start a life together, he loses everything to gambling. Ashamed and guilty of his actions, he ends up breaking up with his girlfriend and getting arrested for assaulting a police officer.
While in jail, he is diagnosed with a life-threatening aneurysm and released on parole to get medical treatment. Ah Cheng at once works hard to undo the wrong he had caused and returns the money he owes Hao-Ting. Despite his efforts to slide away silently from her side after paying back the money, Hao-Ting ends up discovering the truth. She reconciles with him and faithfully remains by his side till he meets his end.
So What Was New About This Regular Old Love Story?
It is a fairly cliched romance drama. Bad boy meets good girl, falls in love, and decides to become good but his past haunts him. Their love story usually has a sad end, as in one of them dies or they break up for good. The most promiscuous of all old-school patriarchial cliches - a man who fancies a woman and pursues her relentlessly, despite her repeated rejections, is shown in a funny light.
Ah Cheng is hard-headed and gruff but at the same time honest and adorable. Hao-Ting's rejections end up juddering his inner curiosity. He is awkward and has no idea about courting. Instances of his soft, sweet nature in the presence of Hao-Ting make you fall in love with the ruffian. In one of the scenes, in order to make her hate him, he goes to the length of lying about his selfless love for her.
Hao Ting is spirited and hard-working. She is agitated by this loud, violent mobster but she can't put a finger down when it comes to his puzzling personality. She reciprocates Ah Cheng's love with the same fervor and honesty despite him being a trouble-maker. Her wholehearted acceptance of his cringy yet adorable mannerisms tend to push him to be a better person.
Compassion, sacrifice, and selflessness lead the narration. The movie also provides a fleeting but remarkably soul-wrenching glance into the strong bond one shares with one's family. The plot after the death of Ah Cheng slowly leaves behind a trail of pain the family goes through - the father who suffers from dementia remembers his filial son at his funeral, the brother's loud open cries when he receives a pre-ordered present from his recently dead brother.
The characters of Ah Cheng and Hao Ting are beautifully enacted. Roy Chiu is known for his remarkable roles in critically acclaimed movies such as Dear Ex (P.S. a movie that is a definite watch from my end). The storyline is not special but the life the acting and screenplay brought to the story was magic. The script is simplistic and has a fresh vibe to the movie. It is neither fabulously paced nor an elaborate story but it keeps you engaged. You feel the feels, you thrill the thrills - you live through the movie. The love that develops at first sight but eventually takes root deep into your soul. This is one of those movies that tug at your heartstrings.
The Scenes I Found Absolutely Endearing
There are two particular scenes that made me feel lucky to have watched the movie.
There is a particular scene where Hao-Ting shaves Ah Cheng's beard, his puppy eyes roam about her face lovingly. The immense love his eyes held at that moment is clearly expressed through the screen.
Ah Cheng and his father converse about him finally settling down with a family, and he casually asks his father to step up as Hao-Ting's parent. He politely asks both grievers to find comfort in each other. The respect Ah Cheng had and the way he loved her personality were evident in this scene.
Have a look at the trailer and do watch it if you love a good, tear-jerking romance. The movie is streaming on Netflix.
Character development: 8/10
Especially because it successfully achieves its aim despite its regular old bad boy meets good girl storyline. It will definitely make your tear glands juggle with the on-screen chemistry of Cheng and Hao, the vivid feelings they go through; and at some point, you live through them. Thus, the movie justifies the romance genre despite several other innovative plots.
Image Source ~ IMDb official website
Video Source ~ YouTube
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