As of late, it seems the big studios have handed romance and romantic comedies over to streaming services. They’re just too much of a gamble, but at the same time, there’s still an audience for it. This short-sighted business decision has opened the floodgates of imported romance films from overseas. Taiwanese filmmaker Gavin Lin’s More Than Blue admirably carries the Rom-Com baton to the States.
Bookending More Than Blue is a story of real-life Taiwanese pop star A-Lin, who is frustrated by a song she has to sing loaded with internet catch-phrases. Damn Millenials! She desperately wants a real songwriter to help finish her album. Her driver turns her on to an unreleased song that’s perfect for her. The driver tells A-Lin the songwriting team is not available and launches into a story of a love that could never be.
The Rom-Com gods then carry us into the not-so-distant past, where we meet Zhang Zhekai (Jasper Liu) and Song Yuanyuan (Ivy Chen)—two high school students recently orphaned with no family to claim as their own. The two become fast friends and decide to live together at the home of Zhekai. Zhekai is the more reserved and quiet of the two. Yuanyuan is more creative and adventurous. As these creative types do, she immediately gives Zhekai a nickname. From here on out, Zhekai is known as ‘K,’ and Yuanyuan goes by ‘Cream.’ Is there romance in store for the emotionally fragile teens? There’s a roll on the ground and a passionate kiss, and that’s as far as they go.
“…K finds that he has advanced Leukemia…he keeps his condition a secret and insists that she find a husband and quickly.”
Cut to today, K and Cream work together at a music company. K is in the marketing department, and Cream is a staff songwriter. Trouble brews when up-and-coming and tone-deaf sensation Bonnie arrives with her hit song Kitty Bomb. Bonnie needs help with her album and Cream is brought in to fix the problems. After a tussle between the two, K calms the pair down, but feels dizzy and must excuse himself. After seeing a doctor, K finds that he has advanced Leukemia, which was no surprise as this is how his mother died.
Not wanting to alarm Cream, he keeps his condition a secret and insists that she find a husband and quickly. Do I really need to tell you K real feelings for Cream? Finding the request strange, she obliges and sets her eyes on Yang Youxian (Byron Chang), a dentist she met at a night club. The problem is Youxian is engaged with Cindy (Annie Chen), a professional photographer, whose photo studio was financed by Youxian. K now takes it upon himself to break up Youxian and Cindy’s engagement. K produces photos of Cindy cheating on Youxian, and when that doesn’t work, he bribes Cindy to break it off. The bribe works and weeks later Youxian and Cream are to be married. K is to give Cream away during the wedding ceremony. But deep down, we all know K and Cream are meant to be together.
“You will root for the two lovers, and the ending is quite satisfying for this genre…”
The story itself feels as it comes from straight out of an American soap opera dripping with sappy gooeyness. We love that right? For the most part, the story is told from K’s point of view, and the twist at the end, when we are privy to Cream’s POV filling in the gaps and producing a series of unexpected and delightful twists. You will root for the two lovers, and the ending is quite satisfying for this genre. The minor pop-star story that bookends the film serves as a storytelling device that could have been avoided, but I supposed the film needed a star like A-Lin as a publicity boost (I don’t know who she is either). The sub-plot love story between Youxian and Cindy didn’t necessarily earn its ending, but the characters were absolutely integral to K and Creams story in its subtle brilliance.
I also loved the character of Bonnie and her song Kitty Bomb. It’s just this weird silliness the movie needed. And speaking of music, there’s quite a bit of it, and I have to say that Chinese lyrics don’t always translate well into English. While we’re told these songs are amazing, who knows? You have to take them at their word.
More Than Blue is not going to go down as one of the greatest love stories of all time, but it has everything required in a romantic comedy particularly a message of love that looks out for the other person’s interests above our own. Jasper Liu and Ivy Chen are perfect as the leads. Both characters give fantastic and different performances. You get and understand K’s sacrifice for the woman he loves and Cream’s attempt to abide by his wishes as best she could.
More Than Blue (2018) Directed by Gavin Lin. Written by Gavin Lin, Hermes Lu. Starring Jasper Liu, Ivy Chen, Bryan Chang, Annie Chen, Emma Wu.
8 out of 10 stars