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★★★★✩

If You Are the One II (2010)

Directed By Xiaogang Feng

Starring Shu Qi, Ge You, Vivian Hsu

If You Are the One II is Xioagang Feng’s sequel movie to If You Are the One, which was released in 2008 and became immediately popular in China. The movie is a formidable sequel in an industry where most follow-up movies tend to fall short of expectations. It is filled with emotionally subtle passages, well-placed irony and sarcasm, and elements of black humor that serve as a personal but painful reflection of what we all feel. A dark-humored romantic comedy, the movie does not conclude with a Hollywood ending. Instead, it is a reminder that human relationships are full of complications and unanswered questions.

In the first movie that came out in 2008, Xiaoxiao (Shu Qi) is a stewardess who falls in love with Qinfen (Ge You), a freelance inventor who is “up to no good.” In the sequel, after becoming engaged on the Great Wall, the two take a honeymoon. Or more accurately, a “trial period” — a test to prove whether they could truly stick it to the end. After a few tense nights full of miscommunication that appear to pull the couple further apart, the trial period uncomfortably ends and they return to their normal lives. Though their future remains unclear, the two drift apart over time.

Feng’s emphasis on black humor is seen in the relationship between Xiaoxiao and Qinfen’s friends, Xiangshan and Mango. After Xiaoxiao and Qinfen become engaged, a scene follows which looks suspiciously like a wedding. However, it is instead Xiangshan and Mango’s divorce ceremony, a humorous end to their failed marriage, complete with the return of their rings and the cutting of the Chinese character for “happiness.” Interestingly, Xiaoxiao and Qinfen have organized the divorce, and the ceremony foreshadows and mirrors the eventual failure of their own relationship, except that the depiction of their failure is far more serious than the divorce ceremony. These two depictions allow the audience to see two remarkably different failures of human interaction.

Long after the trial period, Qinfen learns that Xiangshan has been suffering from cancer and that his death is coming soon. Qinfen organizes a pre-death farewell party for Xiangshan, who emotionally confesses his shortcomings and sins in front of his friends and family. The movie ends with Xiangshan jumping into the ocean and drowning.

Feng looks at love in a harshly realistic way, depicting people as fickle and unable to invest in something for their entire life. During an unnatural and forced scene when Xiaoxiao massages Qinfen but both end up frustrated, Xiaoxiao remarks: “We need this trial period to see if we can last to the very end, even when all the passion is gone. You have lost all interest in me, and I’m not so sure I’m interested in you anymore.” Qinfen replies, “No. I’m still burning with passion.”

Later, Xiaoxiao asks Qinfen, “Will you always treat me this well?” Qinfen is negative but brutally honest in his answer, saying it is impossible to treat someone this well forever. Xiaoxiao responds by saying that she would always treat someone she loves well, but her tone casts doubt onto her statement.

Despite its reoccurring motifs of death and divorce, If You Are the One II does not have a particularly pessimistic tone. The near-ending scene when Xiangshan confesses his sloth and mediocrity is moving and shockingly realistic. Feng portrays negative feelings as part of realism. Bitterness and sadness are a part of life, just as other more inspiring feelings are as well.

The movie was accompanied by amazing cinematography and a fitting soundtrack. Feng portrays Hainan Island, the location of the honeymoon, as a dark paradise. Through vistas of desolate hills shrouded in clouds, Feng hints at the hidden suspense and uncertainty of Xiaoxiao and Qinfen’s relationship. Rain and storms are present throughout the movie, a symbol of the psychological unrest in the movie’s characters. It pours heavily on the day of Xiangshan’s pre-death event. Music with impressionistic and surrealistic overtones helps support the quiet sadness of the scene and prevents the audience reaction from being overly emotional.

Though not everyone will necessarily enjoy the realism of the film, I found the movie to be worth watching. I watched it on New Year’s Eve and finished around 11 p.m., and it did not ruin my mood that day. While the movie does not elicit a dramatic emotional response, it strikes a good balance between humor in the beginning of the movie and melancholy that creeps in and begins to dominate as the film continues. The movie is not exactly a romantic comedy like the first in the series; it is a deeper, more honest exploration into how we feel about human connections.