Film Movement // 2008 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // June 10th, 2009
In Love We Trust.
Don't be fooled by the cover art on this DVD. In Love We Trust, or Zuo You, is the opposite of red satin sheets and ecstasy.
Mei Zhu and Xiao Lu are divorced parents of the cancer-stricken HeHe. Both remarried -- with Mei's new husband acting as HeHe's father -- the ex-couple face a perilous decision about how best to save HeHe.
How to write this review, without entirely giving away the plot?
If I say, In Love We Trust, is the Chinese version of Jodi Picoult's best selling book -- soon to be blockbuster film -- My Sister's Keeper, anyone who's read Picoult's book will know the punch-line. Sorry, about that. But it was a comparison that had to be made.
Instead I'll stay away from the plot and focus on the startling cinematics and acting that define this Berlin International Film Fest winner.
The opening view is through the front window of a nondescript car. You know it's a windshield because there is an annoying sticker -- maybe a parking sticker -- just at the top right corner of the window, an annoying reminder that you're looking through several layers of glass (the camera glass, and the windshield glass). Although annoying, this shot also offers an interesting perspective. You don't know, initially, who is in the car, or where they're going, and the cameraman has a very steady hand so there's no vibrating or panning as is usually the case with inside-the-car camera work. Instead, you, the viewer, are quite literally in the car.
Next we're taken to HeHe's room as she lies sick in bed. The camera has shifted to an overhead perspective, making the room feel impossibly small -- probably as it did to HeHe with her large, concerned parents hovering over her.
Throughout the movie, the 2.35:1 perspective will alternately feel too cramped or too spacious. The wide angle lends itself well to cityscapes and this film showcases the austere glass and steel builds that dot the skyline. There is frequent haze and fog, both inside and outside. A greenish tint dominates several scenes, as if no one can quite wash off the reminder of the hospital. Mei Zhu (Weiwei Liu) repeatedly wears a drab, shapeless gray turtleneck and alongside her pale, pale visage and tight back knot of black hair; it is her uniform of despair. Her plain appearance is also probably an effort to showcase her face and the painful emotions that wrack it with every new revelation about HeHe, her ex-husband, or her current one. It is in the scenes that rely on the faces that the 2.35:1 is really too wide. In these scenes I wanted the agonized faces to fill the screen and wrap around the edges. Instead the faces are pushed back and down, away from the viewer and beneath the black bars.
That's a shame because this is a film that relies on faces, especially if you're trying to also read subtitles and can't detect the subtle inflections that define language to the human ear. In the closing scene, which is an unsatisfactory cliffhanger on so many levels, Mei Zhu has a mini heart attack of her face. There is explosion and constriction, pain and disbelief, resignation and disgust. All in the span of 10 seconds.
Mei's current husband Lao Xie (Taisheng Chen) is also an excellent caricature of his character. He smirks often and inappropriately, frequently conveying a lightness which cannot possibly be in his soul. He's a front man and only in the closing scene does he get to deliver the true man behind the mask.
This film could have been about a half an hour shorter. And the relationship between Mei and her new husband was not explored as thoroughly as with her ex-husband. I actually felt as if Mei and her new husband weren't in love, that theirs was a marriage of convenience, and I'm not sure that was the intention at all. Also, there were some repeated themes -- an empty awkward apartment, Lao's constant need to go to the store to buy cigarettes -- that seemed played out by the end. Also, the soundtrack on this movie was a little weak; this was a film that lent itself to a powerful orchestral soundtrack and instead it tinkled away in the background, never really swelling to the forefront. The DVD did include a strange, but well-done 15-minute short called Hugo, that was far superior to the actual special features which included only written bios of the cast and a trailer.
Throughout, In Love We Trust is a gripping tale of a mother's love and the sacrifices which seem inconsequential when trying to save a child. Even if you've read Picoult's book, and found it too unbelievable, too teen-angst-ridden -- or if you can't wait for the Hollywood film to be released -- this little film is a lesson in filmmaking, acting, and loving.
Review content copyright © 2009 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Mandarin)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film