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More than Blue (2018)
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by Jay Seaver

"Isn't it romantic? Sort of?"
2 stars

"More Than Blue" is the sort of love story that requires a viewer to be able to say "yes, this is horrible, but so romantic!", and, folks, I am not good at that. Nope, I'm the guy who is going to spend much of the movie trying to keep myself from yelling "that's not freakin' heartwarming, you ghouls!" despite how generally and earnestly charming this romance can be.

Sung Yuan-yuan, aka "Cream" (Ivy Chen Yi-han) and "K" Chang Che-kai (Jasper Liu Yi-hao) met in high school ten years ago, coming together after Cream's family died in a car accident and K's mother abandoned him, living together in K's house (and both working for the same record label) but never sharing a bed or even a kiss, seemingly content to be best friends. In truth, K has never told Cream that he has leukemia, and as it reaches its terminal stage, he's intent on making sure that she has a happy life after he's gone. When he sees her apparently spark with dentist Yang Yu Hsien (Bryan Chang Shu-hao), things look good, except that he's engaged to photographer Cindy (Annie Chen Ting-ni) - though with all her affairs, breaking them up shouldn't be too hard.

Maybe it worked a little differently in the original Korean version of this film, but director Gavin Lin Hsiao-chien and co-writer Hermes Lu An-hsuan set themselves a tricky-than-necessary situation to navigate. It would be one thing if K's plan was just misguided and Cream was just fooling herself, or trying to, but they come into this other couple's lives in a selfish manner and are never exactly poised to learn from what they're wrecking. It's easy to spend the movie cheering for the supporting cast, especially Bryan Chang Shu-hao as the lovably doofy alternative love interest and Annie Chen as his (ex) fiancee who at least seems straightforward and self-aware. One doesn't necessarily want to see them with each other, but they're funny characters and Wu plays Cindy with such great lack of b.s. that the audience is with her even when it's probably not supposed to be. There's also what seems like a pretty good workplace comedy/show-business spoof going on around the main characters; it's kind of broad and weird, but also fairly funny.

Truth be told, the main pairing isn't bad at all. Jasper Liu and Ivy Chen Yi-han have good chemistry and commit to the story around them with utter sincerity. You can't do otherwise with what's kind of an ill-advised story like this, and they're both charming and willing to give the script what it needs, making K and Cream feel like they're everything to each other without harping on it or being more ostentatiously sincere than the chaos around them deserves (it's also worth noting that the actors playing the pair as teenagers, Shih Chih-tian and You Ai-ning, capture and establish the characters well enough that I had assumed it was the same actors, not uncommon in Taiwanese movies). The film is nicely paced and casual rather than overwrought, and doesn't let stuff like an Obviously Important Song wear out its welcome.

At least, it mostly works in the moment. A little reflection seems to expose new layers of it being a mess underneath the surface. There's a wrapper around the story with pop star A-Lin and some background characters following the trail of a song Cream wrote so that the filmmakers can tell the audience what they should be feeling about all of this, and more than a few bits of information held back so that the revelation can hopefully give the emotion an extra kick. And there's the ending, which is powerful and romantic in the abstract but which would likely receive another reaction if they actually showed it or even spelled it out rather than alluding to what happened in the most general terms possible. Instead, they hide from the implications and run from the full measure of the tragedy contained in this tragic romance, and it feels cynical and cowardly.

Maybe it's a great multi-tissue movie for those that really go for the love that is too powerful to be contained, is admittedly not me. On the other hand, "More than Blue" too often feels like the filmmakers want to make a simple, classic weepie despite having the plot of a black comedy and underlying issues that deserve to be wrestled with more honestly. The cast and crew have the skills to make the sort of romance that will have people reaching for the tissues, but this story requires something else.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32835&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/20/19 13:55:50
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USA
  15-Mar-2019

UK
  N/A

Australia
  30-Nov-2018 (M)


Directed by
  Gavin Lin

Written by
  Gavin Lin
  Hermes Lu

Cast
  Jasper Liu
  Ivy Yi-Han Chen
  Bryan Shu-Hao Chang
  Annie Chen
  GEmma Wu



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