Review: If You Are the One

If You Are the One (2008)
Ge You, Shu Qi, Vivian Hsu, Gong Xinliang. Written and directed by Feng Xiaogang. Mandarin with English subtitles.

Qin Fen is a middle-aged bachelor, newly rich thanks to a silly invention he’s sold the rights to. With no need to work anymore, he places a personal ad in search of a wife, very specifically outlining what he wants (modern on the outside; traditional on the inside) and doesn’t want (no female entrepreneurs), while providing details of his own strengths and weaknesses (honed survival skills but not very good-looking).

We’re very quickly treated to one of those parades of candidates, none of which are very promising. One respondent is a gay man, another only meeting guys to guilt them into buying cemetary plots. Qin Fen’s doesn’t feel the need to pretend about anything, so he’s very direct in these meet-ups about what he likes and doesn’t like about these potential spouses. He doesn’t have time to play the dating game, so he’s quick to rule out those who simply aren’t what he’s looking for.

Because of his lack of pretension, and because he has a wry, understated sense of humor, he kind of hits it off Platonically with Liang Xiaoxiao, the first of his respondents who is truly beautiful (she rates herself a 6; he says she’s a 9). She’s a flight attendant, and this is her first attempt at meeting someone through the personals. While she’s also direct about what she’s looking for, she has a softspoken, detached way of speaking, like she’s distracted by something going on beyond Qin’s field of vision. They decide rather quickly that he’s not what she’s looking for. But he makes her laugh, and if they aren’t meant to be lovers, they seem well-suited for friendship.

If You Are the One is a film about how this relationship evolves, and because of Liang’s complications it is sometimes painful to watch, and because of Qin’s likeability it is also fun. They make each other laugh, and they drive each other kind of crazy. It’s neat how the ground rules are set from the moment of their meeting: they will be honest with one another. In a way this honesty is the obstacle, as they tell each other things we think of as stuff you don’t talk about early in a relationship. In another, it allows them to develop a genuine fondness for each other, something American romantic comedies often avoid, choosing instead for some kind of deception or misconception to define the early stages of romance.

This is a cute, sweet movie with actors I really enjoy, and I look forward to seeing its sequel.


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