Spoiler alert! I’m going to start with what is revealed at the end of the movie: this movie is based on the story of superstar Jackie Chan’s parents, and Chan’s given name is “Gang Sheng” (meaning “born in Hong Kong”). Chan’s father is really surnamed “Fang” but took on his wife’s surname (Chen) when they fled to Hong Kong in order to change his identity. (Note: “Chan” is the Cantonese pronunciation of “Chen” in Hanyu Pinyin.)
The three cities mentioned here are Anhui, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The story is part historical (from before and during the war in Anhui and the war years in Shanghai and their escape to Hong Kong in the 1930s) and part romance.
The leads are Sean Lau Cheng Wan and Tang Wei, whose acting are arresting and the chemistry between them sizzling, though the story tells of their ill-fated romance, partly as they are seemingly mismatched : he is a boor who can read only nine characters (one, two, three, big, small, mouth, and the three characters of his name) while she is well-versed in the classics and music. (She also sings beautifully, and her rendition of the classic “My Sweetheart” is a real treat!)
I also like some of the witty dialogue, like “Every woman thinks her man can change whereas every man thinkis he will win”, “The best thing about troubled times is that it passes quickly and thus will for ever give people a chance to start over again”, and “Fate? Don’t believe it. Believe in ourselves.”
Something new and interesting I learnt is that a Chinese spoon can be used “upside-down” to feed a patient more effectively!
I also love how the music used appropriately enhances the mood and atmosphere, in particular the cello to depict melancholia. I was rather surprised that the musicians are from a little-known orchestra in the Czech Republic as I had thought it might have been the famous Yo-Yo Ma (cello) or Lang Lang (piano) as they are so beautifully executed.
One very big, nice surprise is the song “Fascination”, almost in its entirety, that accompanied the dancing on the rooftop of “Casanova” opposite the Saville Hotel in Shanghai. I thought it sounded like Frank Sinatra but I couldn’t find the song listed in the Credits at all.