Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
‘In the Mood For Love’ is a beautiful, often hypnotic, and subdued character drama about two very lonely people trying to fill a void in their life. Each character has a desire for companionship, each in their own way, even if it conflicts with the person they seek to fill this void with. It has a lovely score, enrapturing presentation, and feels lived in as much as it does atmospheric... if only I got something substantial out of it.
Kar Wai’s sense of visuals and outstanding camerawork carry what is, unfortunately, a plot with zero momentum or sense of progression. This film undoes itself a bit by being more impressionist than literal, and even though I think that approach could totally work with the subject material, here it feels like a story where you’re constantly examining every conversation because you’re not entirely certain what happened, what’s going on, and what the stakes are for each character. The visual storytelling is great in the first act, and leads you along carefully and methodically, but it just doesn’t really carry that sense of tangible progression through the rest of the runtime. Maybe I’m just dumb, but I felt that this movie, despite its slowness, could’ve done with a half hour longer running time to fill in some of the gaps here. It ultimately results with me being engaged to how gorgeously colored and lovingly filmed, but left me scratching my head as to who the characters even were. You’re told a lot about them, but you never really see them reinforce who they are. The acting is pretty phenomenal, the dialogue feels genuine, but I just couldn’t latch onto these people because I wasn’t really certain how anything could/would effect them. There’s simply not a lot of narrative tension here, the development of the relationship feels almost minuscule, and in movies like this, I need strongly drawn characters to anchor me through the surreal visual haze. I did mention how good the score was, but I do feel like it was overused, seeing as one track (which is beautiful btw) just plays over and over and over again, and it felt a bit grating in the second act. The movie just feels so painfully under-written, and it’s a shame, because I could so easily see this being a work of genuine mastery if the movie didn’t seem to rely on its audience to fill in the vast gaps of details that I think are important for stories like this.
I wanted desperately to engage with this emotionally, because on paper this feels like a movie that’s tailor-made for someone like me, but it has a script that almost weighs down everything amazing about it that keeps it afloat. Guess I wasn’t in the mood for love, it seems.