In the Mood for Love (2000) (PG)

This review contains SPOILERS!
Sometimes it's all about the style, sometimes it's about the acting, sometimes it's about the music—and on some rare occasions a movie succeeds because of a combination of all things considered. "In the Mood for Love" is one such movie that transcends its story with its visuals but never leaves it behind long enough for us to forget. The narrative and the style aren't closely intertwined, they are one.
The film itself is a work of love and propriety, heartache and betrayal.
The movie opens rather unsuspiciously, with two people moving in. They are searching for rooms with their spouses and find themselves living next to each other. One of them is Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) whose husband seems to always be away on business trips and the other is Mr. Chow (Tony Chiu Wai Leung). They don't know each other and find that they move in on the same day. Bureaus, magazine racks, and mirrors get shuffled from apartment to apartment in the confusion. Once everything is sorted, they seem to get on with their lives.
Their jobs seems terrifically ordinary—Mrs. Chan is a secretary and Mr. Chow works in an office. What makes the film unusually effective is that it shows the splendor of everyday lives, mixing in the terrible sadness that can be accompanied with love.
To condense, to bring the stories whimsical fascination to a brief synopsis would be cruel—yet it must be done.
Both Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow are in marriages that appear to be on the brink of falling apart. Though no confrontations or throwing dishes occur, it's a unsentimental drift that separates our two main characters from their spouses. The film is so subtle, yet so sure to never show the face of the wife or the husband—the film is entirely about Cheung and Leung.
The film comes from director Kar Wai Wong, who proves his worth behind the lens.
After many days of the wife coming home late or the husband being away at work, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow come to a similar discovery: their significant others are having an affair.
The two desolate outcasts of the relationship, Chan and Chow console each other with their presence. They do not wish to be like their partners, they have higher morals; yet they find themselves asking the dreaded question: why?
In order to better answer this question, the two embark on a role-playing style of relationship where they each mirror the other's spouse.
It may seem unhealthy to the viewer and a little unsettling either, but once you belong to the aura of the movie, you believe in everything you see. It's not a comfortable work, nor is it extremely erotic, it shouldn't be.
The mood of the movie is punctuated with rain that cascades from the sky at the slightest notice and food that fills plates. We see people eat, we see them play, we see life pass by.
There is a horrid resignation that the picture captures beautifully in reference to love. By all rights, our two main characters seem to be falling in love; but they are forced into the position because of infidelity.
"In the Mood for Love" is visually one of the most stunning films you could find. Thematically, it's pleasing to see a movie that doesn't slip into the stereotypes of a romance movie. Emotionally, the movies makes its biggest impact—this is what makes the movie great.
A smart script, good actors, beautiful cinematography, and a haunting score—it's an easy and incalculable success.

Score: ★★★★

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