The Law of Attraction 萬有引力
Contemporary love anthology
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 97 mins
Directed by Zhao Tianyu (趙天宇)
By Derek Elley
Sun, 21 August 2011, 04:40 AM (HKT)
The best comes at the start in this uneven collection of vignettes on various stages of love. Asian events.
Beijing, the present day. Encounter 邂逅: For three years, Gao Yuan (Wen Zhang), a twenty-six-year-old low-level accountant in an oil company, has been catching the same flight every Tuesday to Yulin, central China, in connection with an important contract. On this Tuesday, going for an especially crucial meeting, he's delayed during the security check by a diligent young officer, Shi Xiaolin (Bai Baihe), whose hand scanner wrongly keeps registering metal on him. Furious, Gao Yuan ends up missing his flight - the only one of the week - and berates Xiaolin for ruining his career. She apologises and helps him get on a flight to Xi'an instead, from where he can catch a coach, but that flight is then delayed by bad weather. The two end up having lunch together, during which she suddenly reveals she knows an awful lot about him. Giving Birth 造人 : Mathematics professor Wang Yong (Guo Tao) and Xuelian (Zhang Jingchu) are a happily married couple in their 30s but childless. After her sister gives birth, Xuelian decides she and Wang Yong must approach their problem scientifically, by living for three months on super-healthy food and then timing intercourse to the exact moment when she's ovulating. This doesn't work out, and Wang Yong gets fed up having to perform on schedule. Instead, he develops a mathematical formula to solve their problem. Derailment 出軌 : Married lovers Mei (Karen Mok) and Wang Yao - colleagues at work - are injured in a car accident one evening and Wang Yao is hospitalised in a critical condition. Mei's husband Zhou Yunshan (Leon Dai), apparently unaware of her infidelity, is very understanding and Mei becomes more and more wracked by guilt as she realises she betrayed his love. Rebirth 重生 : Young Jiaxin (Huang Huan) is released from a Police Drug Rehabilitation Centre and met outside by her boyfriend Song Haiqiao (Duan Bowen), with whom she stays when her father bawls her out. Both are members of a skydiving team but Jiaxin is about to be replaced due to her drug habit. Haiqiao tries to conquer her suicidal depression, and finally comes up with a unique solution.
Like most anthology films — and like director ZHAO Tianyu 趙天宇's first feature, culinary thriler Deadly Delicious 雙食記 (2007) − The Law of Attraction 萬有引力 (2011) is a curate's egg. Four unconnected love stories that broadly describe a relationship arc (Encounter, Giving Birth, Derailment, Rebirth), it again shows the technical facility of Zhao (and d.p. CAO Yu 曹郁), with slightly different looks for each segment (clean, more colourful, darker, rougher), but never really adds up to a whole movie on the theme announced by its English or Chinese titles. (The latter roughly means Gravity or Universal Attraction.)
The two middle tales, featuring the highest-profile casts, are the least satisfying. Giving Birth, a romantic comedy about a couple trying to conceive, finds comedian GUO Tao 郭濤 in good form and surprisingly well-teamed with a relaxedZHANG Jingchu 張靜初 as his ever-desperate wife, but there's little fresh here that hasn't been seen in similar comedies. Derailment, a drama about an unfaithful wife caught in a car accident, has too many shots of Hong Kong actress Karen MOK 莫文蔚 looking dour in dark glasses and Leon DAI 戴立忍 looking uncommonly nice as her cuckolded husband. It doesn't really go anywhere, and has only a mild twist near the end.
The final story, Rebirth, mixes drug addiction and skydiving in an uncomfortable mix, and plays more like a 20-minute version of a feature-length romantic drama between two young people. Its wish-fulfilment finale adds a positive end to the film but the segment is too downbeat for an anthology's final slot.
Best of all is the first segment, a beautifully constructed miniature set in Beijing airport's terminal 3 that immediately engages the audience's sympathies with its opening of an over-zealous security officer making the hero miss his plane, before developing into a tender tale of love and longing. It's a near-perfect example of cinematic short-storytelling and is played pitch perfect by young leads WEN Zhang 文章 (Mr. & Mrs. Incredible) and BAI Baihe 白百何, supported by fine photography of the airport's clean, white vistas by Cao that recalls his work on Driverless 無人駕駛 (2010). The potentially exciting news is that Wen and Bai are reteamed in TENG Huatao 滕華濤's forthcoming Love Is Not Blind 失戀３３天 (2011), from Bao Jingjing's (鮑鯨鯨) lovelorn romance.
ContactSales: Dadi Media Group (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 8 Apr 2011; Hong Kong, TBA.
Presented by China Film (CN), Angel Wings Entertainment (CN), Beijing Dadi Century (CN), Earth Entertainment (HK). Produced by Angel Wings Entertainment (CN). Executive producers: Han Sanping, Sophie Helian, Liu Rong, John Sham. Produced by Ben Ji.
Script: Zhao Tianyu, A Mei. Original stories: Zhao Tianyu. Photography: Cao Yu. Editing: Kwong Chi-leung. Music: Chen Dili. Art direction: Han Yi. Sound: Zhang Yang. Action: Bruce Law, Tung Wei. Visual effects: Sun Min. Aerial photography: Greg Gasson. Script consultation: Wang Yao.
Cast: Karen Mok (Mei), Zhang Jingchu (Xuelian), Guo Tao (Wang Yong, Xuelian's husband), Leon Dai (Zhou Yunshan, Mei's husband), Wen Zhang (Gao Yuan), Bai Baihe (Shi Xiaolin), Duan Bowen (Song Haiqiao), Huang Huan (Jiaxin).