Cold romance in beautiful Paris

The romance between Katrina (Sammi Cheng), a fastidious boss, and her assistant Xiao Bo (Joseph Chang) never takes off.
The romance between Katrina (Sammi Cheng), a fastidious boss, and her assistant Xiao Bo (Joseph Chang) never takes off.PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS

REVIEW / ROMANCE

LOVE CONTRACTUALLY (NC16)

98 minutes/Opens tomorrow/1.5/5 stars

The story: Katrina (Sammi Cheng) is a nitpicking taskmaster of a boss who has issues such as claustrophobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Xiao Bo (Joseph Chang) is a former paratrooper turned courier who ends up as her assistant because of the attractive salary. He later learns that he was picked to be her sperm donor.

Perhaps the best thing dating couples could do during this Valentine's season is to avoid this rom-com, which contains neither genuine romance nor comedy.

There is only plenty of nothing between Hong Kong singer-actress Cheng (Blind Detective, 2013) and Taiwanese actor Chang (Eternal Summer, 2006) to sustain this annoying debut feature by Chinese director Liu Guonan, which turns maudlin in the last stretch.

At 44, Cheng looks good enough to pass for a 35-year-old. Unfortunately, her character is a cold and cheerless creation that audiences will find hard to warm up to, even when she gets saddled with a sob story of a backstory that is meant to evoke some smidgen of sympathy.

The sunny Chang is the lone bright spot, but his character is just ridiculously perfect - man enough to save Katrina from a crazed employee and good-hearted to the point of being self-sacrificing.

And yes, he has also experienced tragedy in his past - essentially an excuse for him to have something in common with Katrina and also to set up the over-the-top ending.

Nothing else sticks here. Not the lacklustre storytelling, not the desperate use of France as a scenic backdrop and, above all, not the forced romance between Katrina and Xiao Bo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Cold romance in beautiful Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe