Film Review: ‘A Trip With Your Wife’《跟你老婆去旅行》Revisits The Scenic Tropes of Taiwanese Rom-Coms5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Years after his disappearance, Ah Cheng’s roommate and buddy from university Ah Zhi reappears with the shocking news that he only has six months to live and that he would like to take Ah Cheng’s wife, Xiaoya, on a holiday.
Director: Gavin Lin
Cast: Chang Shu-Hao, Michelle Chen, Rhydian Vaughan
Runtime: 94 minutes
In 2018, director Gavin Lin shattered box office records and the hearts of millions with his melancholic film More Than Blue 《比悲伤更悲伤的故事》. He returns in 2021 with the far more cheerful but unfortunately far less memorable A Trip With Your Wife 《跟你老婆去旅行》. While more than capable of entertaining, the romantic comedy feels too familiar to stand out. The trip visits all the recognisable tropes of its contemporaries and is elevated only by the stand-out cast.
The film is more or less as scandalously playful as its title suggests. Ah Cheng (Chang Shu-Hao) and Ah Zhi (Rhydian Vaughan) were inseparable university buddies. Ah Zhi helps Ah Cheng win the heart of Xiaoya (Michelle Chen) but right after the two starts dating, he vanishes. Years later, Ah Zhi returns to break the news to his two friends, now husband and wife, that he only has six months to live. Ah Zhi promises to give Ah Cheng the money to save his ailing business if he can go on a trip with his wife.
Similar to More Than Blue, A Trip With Your Wife is adapted from a Korean (short) film and features a lead character with a terminal illness. Amidst all the boyish humour, the romantic comedy never shirks away from death. It strives to be bittersweet; so much so that the romance takes a backseat.
Far more concerned about his company’s financials than his marriage, how Ah Cheng readily accepts Ah Zhi’s proposition turns out to be the last straw for Xiaoya, who seeks a divorce. Winning her back becomes Ah Cheng’s impetus for stalking the pair on their holiday in Canada.
Understandably, it may be a heat of the moment decision that does lead to a few wacky hijinks. But the reaction does no favours in winning the hearts of the audience, much less the wife, especially when Ah Cheng is almost built to be a foil against the charming (and dying) Ah Zhi.
Most of the plot is told through flashbacks of the trio’s merry university days. The allusion to 2011’s You Are the Apple of My Eye is uncanny. It’s not a cheeky reference on this review’s part to phrase the flashbacks as “those years Ah Cheng and Ah Zhi spent chasing the girl” — especially when the girl is the star of the 2011 hit. The reliance on nostalgia here, especially with the parallels present, feels customary, even if the film continues to show how potently Taiwanese romantic comedies wield it.
There are some on-the-nose choices to bring out this nostalgia, namely of everyone wearing era-appropriate band T-shirts, but there are still tons of hearty moments highlighting the joy found in the trio’s salad days. The film does well in drawing out the two boy’s brotherhood; one standout scene sees Ah Zhi fend off a gang of (albeit goofy) hooligans while Ah Cheng serenades Xiaoya with a Mayday hit. It’s as ridiculous as it’s ridiculously fun. The film can make it difficult not to smile along with all the sun-soaked rosiness.
There are little to no tonal differences between the film’s past and present; tensions between Ah Cheng and Ah Zhi remain playful despite the scandalous implications. Yet even while armed with nostalgia and bonafide chemistry between the trio, the film’s plot still does stumble on its landing. It aims to be bittersweet but ends up feeling less like a gut punch and more like a hesitant jab.
Perhaps this uncertain tone is due to the film’s overall aesthetic. True to its premise, A Trip With Your Wife feels like a getaway, with several sweeping shots of tourist spots and the Canadian wilderness. Unlike the original Korean short, there’s only so much emotional impact that can be mustered from movie stars on a luxurious holiday.
The leads do elevate the film as a whole. The chemistry between Michelle Chen and Chang Shu-Hao remain spotty — not just because of their characters’ disintegrating marriage — even if the chemistry between the trio remain sunny.
Chang’s character is destined to be unlikeable for most of the film but etches out a charm based around relatable difficulties. However, he is outshined at every angle by Rhydian Vaughan’s magnetic charisma constantly tussling with his character’s internal fears. Michelle Chen practically glows in every scene she is in and remains the film’s font of playful energy.
A Trip With Your Wife retreads all-too-familiar paths but that is not to say the tropes have lost their time-tested lustre. Nostalgia remains as potent as ever — so much so that it muddles every other discernible emotion the plot looks to etch out. It’s not helped by how indecisive the film feels as a whole.
A Trip With Your Wife almost wanders without a plan. And like any holiday without one, enjoyment will vary with the company. On this front, the film excels, bringing together beloved celebrities for an enjoyable journey that unfortunately lacks any memorable detours off the beaten path.
A Trip With Your Wife opens today and is now showing in theatres islandwide.