In a post Before Sunrise world, it sometimes seems as though there aren’t quite as many romantic comedies dedicated to the beauty of the walk-and-talk relationship. The Before trilogy obviously has done plenty with it, but other films — Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy and even last year’s Spring — have taken entirely different routes to them. In comes Emily Ting’s It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, a sweet and simple romance that follows in the footsteps of Richard Linklater’s original film, with less focus on lengthy takes and musings and more interest in authenticity.
It’s a simple enough story structure of boy and girl meeting, but it does have its twists to that typicality. For one, as the title suggests, it takes place in Hong Kong, where a white man named Josh (Bryan Greenberg) lives and works. He meets a Chinese American woman, Ruby (Jamie Chung), outside of a bar while she’s visiting for the first time, and he agrees to show her to the destination she’s hunting for. Of course, the timing is all wrong for the romance that begins to blossom, and some vague drama ensues.
But writer-director Emily Ting doesn’t dwell on the drama that comes between these characters. There’s no point in staging a big fight, like many a romcom do, when your actors and characters have an undeniable chemistry. When significant others come into play, there’s disappointment and tensions certainly rise, but that’s natural. And so much of It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong relies on the natural. It’s unsurprising to learn that Chung and Greenberg are an actual couple due to the way they interact, as though they’ve known each other for plenty of time even though they’ve just met (and the film’s script enjoys reminding the audience of their chemistry, for better or worse).
The dialogue that Ruby and Josh engage in nearly always feels as though it’s coming from two real human beings getting to know each other, only occasionally a little too streamlined and ponderous for its own good. It’s unpolished and totally cheesy at times, sure, but considering the low-budget, the genre, and the small-scale intimacy of it all, those missteps are easily forgivable. And while this love seems like more than something fleeting to the characters, it’s a low-stakes story for the audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
Outside of the writing though, there’s something to be said about how gorgeous Hong Kong looks in practically every frame. It’s no surprise that it’s a beautiful place to set a romance, particularly one in which neither character can engage in it without some semblance of guilt, which instantly calls to mind In the Mood for Love. But Emily Ting’s film doesn’t aspire to be a quiet, aesthetically-driven film about repressed feelings, instead sticking to complementing the script with the beauty of the city these characters are in (as well as their beautiful faces). There’s no need for visual flourishes when the actors and neon lights that populate the city are so appealing to look at.
And it’s one of the reasons why It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong actually works. It’s the kind of film anyone fond of big-screen romances can sit back and enjoy on an evening alone or with a date. Emily Ting clearly knows that sweetness and authenticity in writing go a long way in making a romance film and that’s exactly what she delivers.
Directed by Emily Ting; written by Emily Ting; starring Jamie Chung & Bryan Greenberg; 78 minutes.
It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong will be playing at the Miami Jewish Film Festival on January 21st (Regal South Beach) and January 26th (Coral Gables Art Cinema).