77 Heartbreaks is a thoughtful look at modern-day relationships

Pakho Chau and Charlene Choi in 77 Heartbreaks.
Pakho Chau and Charlene Choi in 77 Heartbreaks.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES



97 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: After 10 years as a couple, Eva (Charlene Choi) suddenly ups and leaves her boyfriend Adam (Pakho Chau). Broken-hearted, he discovers an old notebook of hers, in which she wrote about the 77 times he disappointed her during their time together. Meanwhile, one of Adam's kickboxing students, Mandy (Michelle Wai), decides to use the opportunity to seduce him.

Hong Kong star Choi is proving herself to be a serious dramatic actress.

Even though she has attempted challenging dramatic roles before - such as that of a student who gets involved with a much older man in the erotic film Sara (2015) - it never felt like she was completely comfortable on screen. In that film, for example, she was widely criticised for her inability to emote.

She finally nails it here, delivering a subtle and convincing performance as a young woman who gets increasingly frustrated with her immature boyfriend.

She is so self-assured in the role that the rest of the cast members are considerably weaker in comparison - whether it is Chau, who repeatedly uses the same scrunched-up eyebrow routine whenever he has to act angry, or Wai, who likes to pout a bit too much.

Still, the script, which is adapted by novelist Erica Li from her best- selling book of the same name, is strong enough to make up for the poorer performances, although it ties things up a little too abruptly at the end.

Told over two separate timelines - one set in the present and the other in a series of flashbacks - the film poses many thoughtful questions about modern-day relationships.

Do long-term couples stay together purely out of habit and when does that become unbearable for both parties?

Often, Adam comes off as a juvenile, selfish boyfriend, for example, by constantly choosing his friends over Eva. But perfectionist Eva can also be seen as nitpicky, chastising him for everything he does.

The movie paints a fair picture of the situation and, despite the pair's growing incompatibility, this is one very real couple that viewers will be able to relate to.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Thoughtful look at modern-day relationships'. Print Edition | Subscribe