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Stefan Says So: Love in a Cab

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My friend shared this viral video about two girls fighting over a guy publicly in a cafe, when one of the girls happened to catch her boyfriend two-timing her red handed.

A heated argument ensues with the people around unperturbed.

Whether or not this Hong Kong based clip was staged or otherwise, there’s some truth in what’s being said about relationships being dependent on Timing, and it is this concept that anchors Han Yew Kwang’s romance drama Love in a Cab for Channel U’s series of telemovies this month.

I haven’t started to take a look at this year’s worth of Singapore films in a roundup yet, but I suppose 2010 could be Han Yew Kwang’s year with the firing of a double salvo with feature films on different platforms targeted at different audiences with differing tastes, with the eccentric indie comedy When Hainan Meets Teochew currently touring the local art house cinema circuit, and Love in a Cab making its debut on television.

He is also currently hard at work with putting on the final touches to Perfect Rivals, his studio film for the next Lunar New Year (out next month), all these projects under the belt of the production company 18g Pictures Pte Ltd, with longtime producer Lau Chee Nien.

As I’ve mentioned before, 18g is fast shaping into the alternative of more mainstream comedic fare currently offered by another established grouping in Singapore, and now featuring its the own stable of regulars like Catherine Sng, Johnny Ng, Alaric Tay and Marilyn Lee, amongst other recognizable faces in the film community who pop up in cameos here and there.

I suppose and hope that with genuine competition for eyeballs it’ll help lift the comedy offerings here from basic slapstick, to something a little bit more sophisticated. But I digress.

Love in a Cab, as a telemovie, has to have a broad based appeal so that one won’t feel the urge to hit the button on the remote for other competing content from various channels during prime time (although the incessant but expected commercial breaks did entice me to do just that).

A stark departure from When Hainan Meets Teochew, Han’s film here is boosted by the presence of two eye candy television stars in Joanne Peh and Julian Hee, who play Marine Crescent neighbours who learn of each other’s existence through the aftermath hangover of their respective night’s out, and bickering over a taxi cab whose driver (played by Lee Chau Min. another 18g regular) decided to send them both home together lest they waste her valuable time.

Like The War of the Roses, the bickering couple then go on a decade long budding friendship/relationship that begins with animosity before slowly making way for love to enter their hearts in a narrative that’s pretty straightforward and expected. After all this is a mainstream romantic drama with a tinge of comedy, and I suppose Han decided to play it straight and easy.

Narratively the film gets split into sections with each marking key moments and events in that year, and in some ways, served like a summarized historical lesson into the 2000 to 2010 years with World Cups, man made disasters, and even the SARS pandemic influencing the ways the characters interact.

You’ll probably start to look back into your own decade that flew by, and wonder at that point what you could possibly be doing in your own historical context.

This romantic drama is whimsical in treatment, and some of the finer moments involve the use of animation from the opening credits and intertitles which serve up the cute / kitsch factor.

Touches of some Han Yew Kwang signature can be found in two key scenes, which involves a four-way telephone conversation between the characters which is primed specifically for comedy, and of course the shifting of camera perspectives between opposite sides of a mahjong table, reminiscent of that in the hotel room in 18 Grams of Love, though here a little less extended.

While the old woman (Catherine Sng) subplot was expected to develop in the way it does, what wasn’t expected was the morbidity involved (in a romantic film no less!), and in trying to make a point, didn’t really have to make it so verbatim, again reaching out to masses without ambiguity in interpretation.

There are no lack of films out there, be it local short films or foreign ones such as Luc Besson’s Taxi, or The Longest Night in Shanghai starring Vicky Zhao as some of my favourites which has the vehicle as a plot device.

While I’m not quite the big fan of local television and its stars, I thought both Joanne Peh and Julian Hee put up credible performances as a wishy-washy indecisive couple who couldn’t see The One standing in front of them (as love stories go), although the finale stretched it a little longer than welcome. Still, for those interested,

I hope that there may be a DVD release so that you can watch this uninterrupted by commercials, which robbed the film of its pacing.

– A Nutshell Review –

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