Review: LOVE LIFTING lacks both weight and strength
While prolific director Herman Yau has made a name for himself around the world for his grotesque and confrontational horror movies, as well as a string of hard-edged crime thrillers, he wouldn't be most people's first choice to helm a touching romantic drama. And yet with LOVE LIFTING Yau attempts to do just that, albeit with a healthy dose of sports movie thrown in for good measure.
Pang Brothers regular Elanne Kwong takes on the demanding yet rather unglamourous role of Li Li, a championship weightlifter who is forced to retire when diagnosed with diabetes. Taking odd jobs to make ends meet she soon falls in with new neighbour Yung (Chapman To), a recently divorced and bankrupted bar owner. Soon enough the couple marry and have a son, but the yearning to get back into the sport never leaves Li Li, and despite it meaning Yung will have to become a house husband and stay-home dad, he actively encourages her to restart her career.
While LOVE LIFTING has plenty of potential, as a sweet natured romance, domestic drama, or competitive sports movie, the script never feels committed to developing its story in any particular direction. A number of subplots are introduced - Yung's financial struggles and money-hungry ex-wife (whom we never see), a rivalry between Li Li's former and current coaches, Li Li's diabetes itself - only to be forgotten about or easily resolved without any drama or difficulty. Instead, the story simply progresses from A to B to C without any sense of urgency, peril, anticipation or excitement. By the time Li Li finds herself back in the game and training for a new weightlifting competition it is very difficult to muster up any degree of enthusiasm, not least because there is nothing at stake and no recognisable rivals for her to compete against.
Elanne Kwong does a fine job in the rather unflattering lead role, which sees her spend most of the film either lounging around in sweatpants or power-lifting in a unitard and knee braces. Chapman To always makes for a likeable screen presence, and is increasingly being given genuine romantic leads rather than comedy sidekick roles, to which he has taken rather well. Sadly his character is given little to do here beyond being the "supportive partner" and although Yung's backstory sounds genuinely intriguing, Yau never lets it intrude on the mundane story he has chosen to tell.
The result is a film that introduces two characters licking their wounds from altogether more interesting stories, and proceeds to do very little with them for a torturously long 90 minutes. In the final reel, LOVE LIFTING cops out completely, realising that by killing off a major character it can dump all its outstanding plot strands in one fell swoop and attempt to sell its single moment of pyrrhic victory as a cathartic resolution. Those still awake by this stage will see it for the lazy piece of writing it is. Everyone else will have most likely already gone home.
LOVE LIFTING opens in Hong Kong on 22 March.
- Herman Yau
- Herman Yau
- Yee Shan Yeung
- Jun Kung
- Elanne Kwong
- Shing-Bun Lam
- Niu Tien