Movie Review: In the Mood for Love

Exquisite floral-patterned satin dresses coupled with vintage wallpapers, cozy apartments, dimmed stairways, and translucent curtains that swayed with the breeze, “Mood” is indeed the perfect description for this movie.  Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, this movie possesses the mysterious sensuality and hidden desire that lacked in most modern films. Through the lens, Mr Wong has captured the mood well and expressed the emotions of the main characters in the most artistic and abstract ways.


Staged in Hong Kong 1962, “In the Mood for Love” was released in year 2000. It gained outstanding ratings and was well received by many reviewers. Patrick Z. McGavin from IndieWIRE.com described it as “a movie suffused with a ravishing physical beauty and an infinite sadness”. The two main lead namely Tony Leung (Chow Mowan) and Maggie Cheung (Su Li-Zhen) played the roles of spouses for their partners whose identities were kept anonymous throughout, besides the occasional back portraits and glimpses though doorways. Director, Mr Wong, developed the relationship between a man and a woman whose spouses, they eventually realized, were having an affair despite being next-door neighbors. Like movie reviewer, Elvis Mitchell said, “Just Next-door neighbors, till Love Breaches wall”.

From a lukewarm relationship of neighborly formality, it transformed under forced circumstances, to a much deeper feeling, however subtle to the people around. In a cultural environment where respectability is deemed vital, Mr Chow and Ms Su had to control and retain their emerging emotions for each other, which powerfully oozes as guilty mix of tension and desire while they play pretend to the roles of their betraying spouses.

Slow, enchanting music by Nat King Cole gave the movie an intriguing mood and Yumeji’s theme song adds it with a tinge of sadness. Mr Wong used this song on scenes where the main characters were on the move, chancing upon each other on stairways, street, in rooms, which portrayed the accidental longing and forbidden attraction towards one another.

Their loyalties towards their spouses complicates things as they refused to admit their love and be seen like the adulterous pair. The scene where Mr Chow called his wife and dropped by her office showed his husbandly care. He realized the affair when he started to notice similarities in the materials his wife and Ms Su carried. Ms Su too noticed her husband overstayed business trips and wore identical ties to Mr Chow.  Mr Wong often focused on the glazed, hurting eyes of the two main characters and produced a gripping, yet subtle romance story out of it.

This allusive yet bittersweet movie is highly recommended as despite being a movie of few words, it showed how love, spelled simply can be complicated as well. This movie also revealed the true reactions of most couples that are caught in sticky situations of infidelity and extramarital affairs. It is not a tearjerker genre but the eventual heart-wrenching parting is sufficient to bitter one’s heart.

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