Features Live Action Movies

Love You Forever
(Wo Zai Shijian
Jintou Deng Ni,

Director – Yoyo Yao Tingting – 2019 – China – Cert. PG – 115m


Exclusively in cinemas from Tuesday, August 25th (Chinese Valentine’s Day this year).

Hands write in a notebook. In a voice-over, Lin Ge (Lee Hongchi) describes himself as “a man who doesn’t exist… No memories of me in this world.” He will repeat these words later on. He talks of the past and we see the images of the day in 1991 when his mum died, he got beaten up by a bunch of other little boys and he was rescued by little girl Qiu Qian who became his playmate that summer.

Ge loses a marble in a pond and, looking for it, finds an old, stopped watch. He and Qian start playing the game of “Wolf, Wolf, what’s the time?” until one day her family moves and he runs after the departing car until his little legs will run no more.

As a teenager to the horror of both his teacher and his bereaved father he and two friends set up a business selling “magic bottles”, running breathlessly along multi-storey school walkways to avoid being caught until they / he chance(s) upon a group of boys blocking a gangway, looking at the beautiful new girl recently transferred to the school and doing ballet training. It’s Qian (Li Yitong) who seemingly doesn’t remember her childhood friend, not even when as she leaves he calls out, “Wolf, Wolf, what’s the time?” Yet later she cycles past and calls out, “three O’clock.”

Meanwhile, some years on, ballerina Qiu Qian is given an umbrella by an unkempt, bearded Lin Ge so she can avoid getting wet. When he collapses, she takes him to the hospital where she learns he has no family, only an address on a luggage label. She goes there, finds the diary, starts reading. Gets hooked. The story has familiar trappings, places she played as a kid. But she has no idea who this man is. Has never met him before.

What follows is basically parallel world science fiction dressed up in romantic drama clothes with dollops of Oriental ideas about the importance of family thrown on top via the relationship or lack of it between Lin Ge and his father (Fan Wei). Or rather, Lin Ge after his transformation (we’ll come to that) when his father doesn’t recognise him because he never had a son.

It turns out that the found watch possess a magic power… As the original Lin Ge discovers when after leaving new school arrival Qiu Qian he goes back to tell her his true feelings and sees her fatally hit by a car. Alone with the watch, he declares, “I would do anything…” and the next thing he knows, he has aged over a decade and been erased from human history (although he’s still alive). After this, his two friends don’t know him, Qiu Qian regards him as a stalker and his father thinks he’s a burglar when he finds him at home looking for his vanished personal effects.

And so the narrative meanders on between different plot-lines (and, looking at the end credits, about half a dozen different writers), a vast quantity of special effects (barely noticeable beyond a few lightning flashes on the ‘dead’ watch, but again, lengthy credits, so a lot of pointless, wasted man hours) and a budget huge enough to take the whole production to Prague in the Czech Republic where, curiously, the locals speak not Czech but English.

The two leads are fine and the film has strong production values, but those two factors alone are never enough. What’s needed is a writer or two (and certainly not six) with a strong sense of where to take the story and a director with a clear vision of how to put it on the screen. On the evidence of Love You Forever, Yao is not that director. The film is enjoyable enough and washes over you mindlessly, yet in other hands it might have been half an hour shorter and had you on the edge of your seat, whether as romantic drama or sci-fi or, perhaps better still, both. A real wasted opportunity.

Love You Forever is out exclusively in cinemas in the UK on Tuesday, August 25th (Chinese Valentine’s Day this year).


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