REVIEW / ROMANCE DRAMA
LOVE OFF THE CUFF (NC16)
120 minutes/Opens tomorrow/4/5 stars
The story: In this sequel to Love In A Puff (2010) and Love In The Buff (2012), Jimmy (Shawn Yue) and Cherie (Miriam Yeung) are living together happily. But this state of affairs gets shaken up by the appearance of Jimmy's "godmother" (Jiang Mengjie), a childhood friend who asks a big favour of him, and also by Cherie's father (Paul Chun) getting remarried to a younger woman.
Hello again, old friends.
Moviegoers have watched Jimmy and Cherie banter, bicker and fall in and out of love. Five years after their last big-screen outing, it is a pleasure watching them go at it again.
There is quite a bit of fan service here, from the way Cuff opens with a seemingly unrelated story - similar to the earlier two films - to all the references to events that took place previously, such as Cherie's supposed fling with actor Ekin Cheng, who played himself in part two.
Credit again goes to director and co-writer Pang Ho Cheung for crafting funny and incisive dialogue that makes the characters come alive, whether they are chatting about childhood television memories or Cherie discussing with a friend the problem of white pubic hair.
The characters are lived-in and their situations feel intimately real.
In a way, Jimmy and Cherie keep circling around the same issues: She thinks he is too immature, he does not understand why she makes a big deal of things.
Despite the best of intentions, they do not solve a problem once and for all.
It comes back in different guises in an ongoing relationship and they keep having to work through it.
Still, each time, the characters learn a little more about each other and keep you rooting for them.
In a nice touch, they get good advice from the unlikeliest of people and that seems to be a reflection of the film's sweet-naturedness - even minor characters are treated with affection.
Yue and Yeung slip so easily into their roles that it is easy to mistake them for Jimmy and Cherie. But make no mistake, this is unaffected acting at its best. (For comparison, see Yue's contrasting performance in 2016's Mad World, a moving drama about mental illness.)
Whereas the obstacles in the second instalment seemed too obvious - Jimmy and Cherie were paired with people they were clearly not meant to be with - this time around, they strike closer to home as Cherie faces her deep- rooted fear of abandonment.
The "godmother" subplot is more of a stretch, but it does nudge the couple to think about marriage and children.
At its core, the Jimmy and Cherie series is a traditionally minded romance, one that is believably contemporary and done well with plenty of heart.