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‘Love After Love’ Review: Elegance Without a Center

Early on in “Love After Love,” the director Ann Hui introduces the viewer to an astonishing shade of green, an emerald lushness that radiates from the foliage surrounding a Hong Kong mansion on the eve of World War II. If only the rest of the overlong feature were so memorable.

“Love After Love” is Hui’s 30th film, and an adaptation of a short story by the novelist Eileen Chang, whose fiction she has now used in three films. Hui, who rose to prominence as a director of the Hong Kong New Wave in the 1980s, has been less well-known in the West.

This film is a sufficient showcase for Hui’s craftsmanship, but it lacks the emotional depth or resonance that its composed visuals, lofty setting, and melodramatic stakes would portend.

The film, streaming now on Mubi, shows sympathy for its young protagonist Ge Weilong (Sandra Ma), who comes from Shanghai to live and work for her cold, aristocratic Aunt Liang (Faye Yu) in Hong Kong while pursuing an education. Attending the banquets and high-society functions of Hong Kong’s international upper class, her aunt’s social circle, Weilong unwittingly finds herself under the gaze of George (Eddie Peng), a former lover of her aunt’s with an outsize Don Juan persona.

What could make for a captivating story involving a transgressive love triangle is, even on a micro level, ineffective. Interactions between characters feel hollow, no matter how well-lit or well-cast the scenes are, with a passionless non-ending that has little of substance to say about the period or its social morés. Nevertheless, the bright spots in “Love After Love” may encourage viewers to seek out more robust works in Hui’s cherished oeuvre.

Love After Love
Not rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 24 minutes. Watch on Mubi.

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