Film Review: ‘My Missing Valentine’ Delights With Its Hearty Sentimentalism
Hsiao-chi does everything so quickly that she’s always one step ahead of others. She works in the post office and a bus driver comes to post a letter every day. Hsiao-chi is turning thirty soon and longs for love. Finally, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, a hot guy asks her out. But to her astonishment, she wakes up the next morning and finds that the Valentine’s Day has mysteriously passed.
Director: Chen Yu-Hsun
Cast: Liu Kuan-Ting, Patty Lee, Duncan Chou
Runtime: 120 minutes
Taiwanese romantic comedy My Missing Valentine 《消失的情人節》is assembled like a “greatest hits” album. Everything that audiences love about the genre is done so wonderfully here, primarily with the film’s whimsy, wondrous premise and the relatability of its leads.
Yet, as with the nature of such an album, the film stumbles when its crowd-pleasing moments are made to connect with one another to form a cohesive narrative. This leads to an overall romance that feels lukewarm once the film’s spellbinding elements loses its grip. Still, there is never a dull moment in the Golden Horse Award-nominated film (which has garnered 11 nods) with its array of memorable characters and fantastical moments.
The premise behind My Missing Valentine is quite a doozy. Throughout her life, Hsiao-chi (Patty Lee) has felt that she is always in a rush and is one step faster than everyone else in just about everything. Before she knows it, she has blazed through her 20s without any romantic relationships. Hsiao-chi finally finds a date for Valentine’s Day with a sleazy stranger (Duncan Chou). However, even that has seemingly sped past her with the day mysteriously disappearing from her memory.
My Missing Valentine is mainly anchored around this mystery and how it relates to Ah Tai (Liu Kuan-Ting), who is similarly off-tempo with the rest of the world. The film’s runtime is split almost exactly half-and-half between the two.
The first half detailing Hsiao-chi’s story is absolutely delightful. While it will probably be impossible to relate to her inability to slow down for anything or anyone, the anxiety of remaining loveless while close to 30 should (perhaps, unfortunately) resonate with many. The film does well in bringing across this relatability, with Hsiao-chi navigating through her life with delectable wit. Enticing dream-like sequences further accentuate the whimsy of her situation.
At its core, the film’s main fantasy is the belief that love will catch up with everyone eventually. Patty Lee brings this across engrossingly well, capturing the understandable insecurity, tenacity, and naivety of Hsiao-chi. Despite ridicule from just about everyone, how much the disappeared Valentine’s Day matters to Hsiao-chi is sincerely translated by Lee’s performance.
Although still enchanting in its own way, My Missing Valentine’s second half, turning the focus towards Ah Tai, is comparatively less enjoyable. This is mostly due to how the film handles its overarching mystery, where most of what has been intriguing are haphazardly explained away.
While probably not deliberate, there are uncomfortable moments throughout this half. Ah Tai comes close to being seen as a stalker, which isn’t helped by his awkwardness and a drawn-out sequence involving Hsiao-chi stuck in time. However, the character remains boyishly charming as an entertaining foil to Hsiao-chi’s brash nature. Between A Sun and The Silent Forest, Liu Kuan-Ting continues to show his dramatic range here, even if he is mostly confined to the character’s aloofness.
Both stories and characters would collide in a satisfying conclusion filled with pillowy sentiments, although it might not feel as earned as the performances would suggest, mainly due to the lack of screen time shared between the pair. Still, the journey there is undeniably pleasant, with its hearty humour, strong art direction and concise pace.
My Missing Valentine is a solid popcorn fare and a great way to spend a date night. Singles would definitely not feel left out, with only the coldest of hearts unable to feel for the film’s barrage of sentimentalities. Those looking to dig a little deeper beneath its wondrous premise will be unsatisfied – but they would have to break free from the film’s irresistible charm first.
My Missing Valentine is now screening in theatres islandwide.
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