45 Days Lover (2002)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-06-16
“45 Day Lover” is a much better film than one would expect based on the amount of money spent on it—or at least the amount of money that winds up on the screen which isn’t much. The story is hackneyed and full of rom/com devices that have been used forever: the poor little rich girl, the amnesia victim, the sudden redemption of a horribly spoiled child, but it works very well. The director, also one of the scriptwriters, stuck to the script and kept things hurtling along making it easy to overlook the lapses in logic necessary for a movie like this to work. There were no comic relief characters—there were funny moments but they were part of the story. With a cast well suited to their characters, simple (and probably very cheap) sets and straightforward cinematography “45 Day Lover” is a 90 minute success.

The relationships among the characters, many revealed to the audience before they realize them, are key to making things work. As simply as possible, they are: Li Kim, who loves his son and who hasn’t gotten over that his wife walked out on them; Ping, his brother, who is the chauffer and general dogsbody for Rose Ng, a Hong Kong heiress; Ping’s greedy wife and senility afflicted mother who live with him in the PRC; Ng Sui-Kei, Roses’ father and his secretary, Lisa, who spends more time in her employer’s bed than at a desk and who is the chief rival to Rose for Ng Sui-Kei’s affection. Unrelated but important are Ken and his wife, good friends to Li Kim and his son; Sin, a transvestite fortune teller who is always right; some strong-arm rent collectors and some very earnest PRC school officials.

We first encounter Rose in her swimming pool. Ping is holding an umbrella to shield her from the sun while other servants stand by to hand her towels and her robe. The delightful Teresa Mak plays Rose as if she was Paris Hilton’s more attractive and more obnoxious Asian cousin. Rose mocks Lisa's accent, makes scenes in restaurants and enjoys humiliating servants. Her father, in current psychobabble, is an enabler. He is a neglectful parent who thinks that giving his daughter everything she could want—a huge house, a big car with a driver, designer clothing and a very luxurious lifestyle—will make up for his inability to show her any love or even affection.

“45 Day Lover” is full of parallels among them the contrast in the setting between Li Kim’s fisherman’s shack and the opulent but sterile home of the Ng family. Ng has a daughter and no wife, Li Kim has young son and no wife. Things come together when Rose, who has been dumped by her boyfriend, goes to the Mainland to represent her father at a ceremony for the opening of a school. She and Ping are carjacked, she is hit on the head and falls into the river where Ping thinks she has drowned. Panicked, he flees to his home where his beautiful, shrewish wife first berates him but then thinks better of things when he produces Rose’s purse which has some valuable jewelry.

The unconscious Rose floats past the Ken's home. Ken pulls her out of the water and he and his wife assume that she is Kim's wife who has abandoned Kim and Chiu, his son, but has decided to return. Chiu decides she is his mom although she has no memory of anything—but she does retain her very bad attitude. This is another parallel. The injured and amnesiac Rose still has the sense of entitlement that characterized her before she wound up in the river although now it seems less "fitting" since she is no longer a child of privilege but (at best) the wife of a fisherman and at worst a homeless crime victim.

Sin, the village fortune teller and transvestite, tells Rose that in a past life she was a prostitute and Kim was a poor professor who drowned himself over her. She has returned to make things right in this life. Rose believes him—clearly she is prepared to believe anything he tells her and begins to fit in with her new family. She learns to scrub clothes using a washboard and to cook with the blackened wok but also shows another side when Kim's landlord demands a rent increase and sends some goons to enforce it. While Kim struggles with them she grabs a hacksaw and prepares to lay waste to them.

Rose is beguiled by the idea of family life, the slow, nature-driven existence on the river, good neighbors and the simple but profound pleasures of companionship turning to love. There remain some confrontations with her old life, the partial, fortuitous recovery of her memory and the completely expected answer to the choice of whether to return to her old life or stay with the new one. Everyone is redeemed at the end, class lines crumble and holes in the plot are forgotten.

“45 Day Lover” is a surprisingly affecting romantic comedy that says absolutely nothing new about how men and women relate to each other. Its strengths are its uncluttered story; its committed cast (Teresa Mak looking as ravishing as she ever has) and its general feel good air. Most of it was shot in bright sunlight giving an upbeat sense no matter what is happening. Worth watching if you like that kind of thing—which I do.
Reviewer Score: 7