Alan Laidlaw reviews the sloppy, misjudged romantic drama It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong at Edinburgh International Film Festival
While watching Before Sunrise or Lost in Translation have you ever found yourself thinking that making a film based solely on two people walking around a beautiful city saying beautiful things can’t be all that difficult to make, that surely such a thing essentially writes itself?
Then let the ungainly, trite and painfully derivative It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong serve as a cautionary tale to such over-simplification.
Josh and Ruby meet one night outside a party in Hong Kong – Josh’s girlfriend’s party to be exact. Offering to help Ruby find her friends who are located elsewhere in the city, they embark on a journey through the bustling and shimmering city. As time passes they appear to strike up a fondness for each other, but due to their prior relationship situations they agree to go their separate ways. A year later they both meet again, reigniting the chemistry that was felt first time around.
Before I launch a cynical tirade on a directorial debut which, as far as I can tell, is made with the best of intentions, I should state that I really did want to like this film. The scenario was promising, the surroundings were a cinematic dreamscape and it involved two aimless souls searching for a place in the world. This should have been one of those films that made you wish your life was as beautiful as the one you see on screen.
Unfortunately – and I say this with a heavy weight of disappointment – that couldn’t have been further from the truth while watching this film.
You get the impression that director and scriptwriter Emily Ting likes to listen in on people’s conversations. As Josh and Ruby drift around the city we’re subjected to a barrage of atypical coupley silence filler: “People never communicate any more, they’re always on their phones,” gripes Ruby as they walk past one particular couple. When dialogue like this is gauged as the plateau of the character’s insight and wit then you know you’re locked in for one patience-testing experience.
The ultimate failings of the film don’t fall so much onto the lap of the slapdash dialogue, but in the realisation that during the failed process of elevating her characters into the realms of profundity, Ting has criminally neglected to install any semblance of humanity, believability or sympathy in the plights and actions of her characters.
They don’t act as real people do: they change their jobs, their locations and their dreams all because of one long tedious night in Hong Hong – one that we regrettably have to endure with them.
It takes aim at the heights of Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece, but ultimately comes up short in a film that gets lost in translation.