By: Ariene Kayette F. Malanog
If you’re a fan of movies that mainly tackles about a person’s perspective about anything under the sun, as if you’re walking in this person’s shoes, in short, a slice of life genre, this film’s perfect for you.
This movie is about two opportunists named Jiao Jiao (Tang Wei), a casino hostess in Macau, and Daniel (Wu Xiubo) is a savvy real estate agent in Los Angeles targeting the Chinese nouveau-rich market. They have different storylines and what connects them is their exchange of letters – how did the letter exchange start? Both Jiao and Daniel had an encounter with an old book, “84 Charing Cross Road”, which tells the story of New York writer Helene Hanff and her 20-year correspondence with British bookseller Frank Doel, whose shop was at 84 Charing Cross Road in London.
Daniel and Jiao, who are in a great misfortune of their lives and blames the book with all these, so they tried to get rid of it by sending the book to the address in the title. Little did they know that the current owner of 84 Charing Cross Road, Mr. Thomas, is an elderly gentleman who enjoys matchmaking and redirects the letters from Jiao and Daniel to each other. The letter exchange lasted for a year and they became closer as they confide their problems and gave life advice to each other. Eventually, this led to them falling for each other, like a flower ready to blossom. Then all of a sudden, the letter exchange stopped for how many days, they never heard of each other till then. But they never stopped sending letters, but because of this sudden loss of communication lead them to a realization that they are really in love with each other – the absence caused a big hole in their lives that somehow sucks them into sadness. With a hope of meeting each other, despite odds, the two of them decided to go to London. And that’s where they knew that the proprietor of the said address died. And at the funeral, Daniel saw a tribute card by “Little Shrimp”, Jiao’s pen name. Unfortunately, none of their attempts to locate the other person work. Close to giving up, both Daniel and Jiao return to 84 Charing Cross Road one last time to leave a farewell letter, where they finally meet.
I admire Jiao’s individuality, and I had a connection to her because I, too, have no idea what I really want in life, I can relate to her. Her characterization was well-developed, from her origins to her struggles up to the result of her upbringings. Same with Daniel’s character, a person who built an unbreakable wall over time that no one can break, causing him to hurt every people around him. Until he encountered Jiao. This is what I really loved about their story, the transition of their personalities as they spilled all their problems through letter exchange. They told everything without a second thought, despite not knowing each other’s names, their exact address, and the letter as their only means of communication. It says so much about trusting someone, surrendering yourself to someone with the possibility of being abandoned.
And I find the story fascinating because it speaks about art appreciation especially literature. And it gives a reminder to revive the trend of sending handwritten letters, in fact we’re now in the age of technology. But it’s still better than sending messages virtually right? Handwritten letters made from the heart, isn’t that more sentimental?
To be honest, I have no negative reactions about this movie, well, in the first part of the movie, the phasing of the scenes were a bit slow and it made me a little bored but as the story goes on, everything finally made sense. As a person who’s not a big fan of Chinese movies and has a limited knowledge about the Chinese culture, this movie made my appreciation to Chinese movies to sprout. Now I’m interested to watch more Asian movies like this. -AKFM