Love Conquers All
Looking at the title, one might think that the film is one that will embrace the nobility of love and how it triumphs over multitudes of obstacles. However, Director Tan Chui Mui puts a twist to this perspective of noble love.
Love Conquers All talks initially about an adulterous love which turns into a supposedly self-sacrificing love. The main female protagonist, Ah Ping, heads to a suburban village in Malaysia to stay with her aunt for a while. She leaves behind a boyfriend whom she calls almost everyday.
During her stay there she meets a man, John. At this juncture, the plot of the film started developing too quickly for my liking and created a kind of abruptness. Probably because the development of their friendship was shown through unusual circumstances, like how John ‘kidnaps’ her for an entire night. It was as though at one moment she detested him and the next she fell in love with him.
Ah Ping’s journey of love with John is a tricky one. There are two episodes that John gets into trouble. The first is when he gets badly beaten up, which is also the start of their relationship proper. The second time, John disappears and requires a sum of money to bail him out.
Not having enough money, Ah Ping resorts to prostitution. Eventually John returns and everything returns back to the way it was. We are then left with plenty of room for imagining their life after because the film ends there.
My problem with the film is John’s disappearance because at one point of the film, John introduces his friend Gary to Ah Ping and tells her what he does to his girlfriends.
Every three months, Gary manages to cheat a girl of her money by disappearing and hence forcing her into prostitution. This scenario happens exactly to Ah Ping but she is completely naive of similarity of the situations.
Her willingness to sacrifice her body for him perhaps shows the depth of her love, but on the flip side, couldn’t this all be a scam that John has set up for her?
The film leaves us with room for our interpretations to the events that happen. Personally, I think Ah Ping has been a victim of Gary’s scam and John is in cahoots with him.
Hidden behind the main plot is the subplot of Ah Ping’s cousin Mei. Mei has a pen-pal whom she thinks she know and wishes to find her/him. Even though she is about 10 to 11 years of age, she tries to behave like an adult. Her tenacity and wit diminishes the authority from the adults around her, especially her mother.
The film ends with the scene of Mei arriving at the house of the pen-pal. Whether Mei meets her pen-pal, we are given no clues. My hopes to have a sense of victory for love, which came with the title, were extinguished when the film ended. With no happy endings or a conclusion to the different plots, perhaps, the director is probing us to ask ourselves whether love really conquers all.