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Miss You Always
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by Jay Seaver

"Something in the way of finding the one."
2 stars

"Missing a person" probably doesn't have the same double meaning in Mandarin as it does in English, which may mean that whoever came up with the English-language title for this Taiwanese film may have made the most clever contribution. It's a movie that looks like a romantic comedy but seldom actually delivers on that promise, pairing a game cast and a potentially fun situation but neglecting the spark that would let it really take off.

When she was a kid, Lin Xin-tian (Amber Kuo Caijie) spent a lot of time in her grandfather's temple delivering fortunes, at least until her father left her mother, and the folks at her current job in publishing still hang on her words of wisdom. Boyfriend David (Li Ronghao) is nice enough, but when the guy she's had a crush on since high school joins her employer, that seems like destiny - except, of course, that as with every other time it's looked like she and Huang Ke-qun (Ethan Li Dongxue) might get together, something comes up, in this case, her getting laid off the next day. Friend Guo Xiao-meng (Xie Yilin) has built a hookup app that matches her with handsome and funny executive Wu Chuan (Ryan Zheng Kai), so maybe the God of Love hasn't cursed her after all.

This sounds like it should be zany or melodramatic, depending which direction filmmaker Chen Hung-i wants to go, but it winds up being neither, in large part because Xin-tian doesn't really do anything, and the way in which she lets the story bounce her around is often kind of jarring - the moment in which she actually seems to take some small amount of control of her romantic life and breaks up with David undercuts it by showing her as kind of zoned out at the start, running through two versions of their entire relationship, and having this whole other joke going on at the same time, like Chen wants to distract the audience from anything that could make her read as selfish, seemingly unaware that having her spend much of the rest of the movie asking others to solve her problems could be seen as much less sympathetic, while a new boyfriend and job appearing in tandem feels more than a bit off, though maybe this particular sort of workplace relationship doesn't ring the same sort of alarm bells in Taiwan.

Granted, it's eventually kind of clever in the "might be worth a second look to see if things fit" way, but I fear that would just show how lacking it is in terms of having characters with interesting personalities who fit together in such a way that one wants them to connect. There's something unsubtle but nevertheless insightful in how a certain stretch of the movie is about showing how wrong a guy or two is, and the different ways that a seemingly good relationship can have issues, but Xin-tian is more often led there than the one to discover it herself, and the one that's meant to be right doesn't get a whole lot of build-up aside from some destiny/True Love talk.

Amber Kuo and her co-stars are awful cute, enough to count for something. Kuo makes Xin-tian the friend one likes despite her neediness, not quite smothering annoyed acceptance of her bad luck or a bit of wit under a kind of babyish voice but also benefiting a bit from Qiu Xinyi's slightly more more assertive take on Xin-tian in high school and college; they blend together well enough to assure an audience that the younger version is in there somewhere. The guys are good for what they're asked to do; Li Ronghao and Ryan Zheng Kai both give entertaining performances as guys who mostly mean well but kind of see relationships in somewhat over-practical ways, while Ethan Li Dongxue is an affable enough Ke-qun, quite charming in how he kind of stumbles in his reunion with Xin-tian. Xie Yilin is the one who steals practically every scene she's in, though, and Xiaomeng's vague comments about how things are easier for her abroad (as well as how good she looks in a tuxedo) may lead one to hope that she's Xin-tian's true love and just waiting for her to be done with boys.

This is not that movie, and it can be difficult to decide what sort of movie it is. "Always Miss You" is strikingly colorful like Taiwanese romances tend to be, the cast is appealing up and down the line, and enough bits click into place on the train ride home to nudge one toward the idea that its faults from the chintzy score to the word reuse of a character or two might be kind of smart and deliberate. There's just not a great enough romance at the center to make it work well enough to survive the low-key ridiculous ending. It looks like the real thing, but feels like there should be more.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32863&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/06/19 09:43:39
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USA
  03-May-2019

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-May-2019


Directed by
  Hung-i Chen

Written by
  Hung-i Chen

Cast
  Amber Kuo
  Ryan Zheng
  Ethan Li
  Yilin Sie



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