In the Mood for Love (2000)

“It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered… to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.”

In the Mood for Love is a Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar-wai and it stars Maggie Cheung (Mrs. Chan) and Tony Leung (Mr. Chow) as neighbors who have just both moved into a new apartment complex with their respective spouses. This is a film about adultery but from the perspective of the betrayed as these two neighbors soon come to the realization that their spouses are having an affair. The way the film reveals that both of their spouses are cheating with one another is ingenious. The director never shows their spouses because this is not their story, we only hear their voices and see the back of their heads until they’re no longer relevant. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan start spending time together to talk about their feelings towards the affair and in a bizarre turn of events they start re-enacting how this affair might have begun by putting themselves in their respective spouses’ place. This is a plot device that the director uses cleverly and deceivingly as these two start practicing how they’re going to confront their spouses about the affair and sometimes we can’t tell if they’re actually talking to their spouses or just practicing.

This is a very stylish movie shot beautifully with a mesmerizing score; at the beginning it seems like it is too concerned with the visual style more than the story itself since we see gorgeous but repetitive imagery with these characters going about their mundane day, but it sets the mood for the rest of the movie and it becomes apparent that it all leads up to something substantial right away. It didn’t take long for me to be in complete awe of the film and discovering its many layers for the first time, and I didn’t want it to end. Our lead characters slowly start becoming dependent on each other for comfort and become closer through a mutual interest in martial arts serial for a newspaper. Early on it is established that both of these characters have unprecedented morals about being better than their cheating spouses so they are reluctant to explore anything between them. They are always cautious of being seen together to avoid gossips by their landlord and other neighbors in the crowded apartment building they live in, even though they’re not cheating.  

In the Mood for Love is a distant relative of Certified Copy and Before Sunset in exploring passage of time and unrequited love. The ending worked for me because it fell in line with everything that came before it and it is very endearing; it is the kind of movie that makes you reflect on missed opportunities and it is masterfully made. It is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen and it deserves multiple viewings, not only to further understand the film but just to stay in this other-worldly place. (10/10) 


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