I saw Gavin Lin’s More than Blue in a Hong Kong cinema. As the tragedies racked up in the story, so, too, did the sounds of tissue packets opening and sniffling around the cinema. As I was watching this Taiwanese remake of a Korean film in a Hong Kong cinema, I began to appreciate the film as proof that some genres do truly transcend cultural borders.
For those who haven’t seen the 2009 original film by poet-turned-director Won Tae-yeon, a quick recap of the plot: After a chance meeting in high school, K and Cream – both of whom have lost their parents through different circumstances – become fast friends and move in together. The two seem to have feelings for each other, but they never entered a proper relationship over their ten years of friendship because of K’s secret: He has a form of terminal illness that can rear its ugly head at any time. When the inevitable finally happens, K does all he can to ensure Cream’s happiness – even if it means giving her to another man.
Securing the right cast in a remake is winning half the battle. Jasper Liu (who happens to have a huge fanbase in Korea) and Chen Yi-han (a.k.a Ivy Chen) share a palpable onscreen chemistry as the star-crossed lovers-to-be, with Chen’s bubbly personality complimenting Liu’s boyish charm. Even when the characters’ actions don’t seem entirely logical, the two leads are likable enough to convince us that they’re doing them for each other’s happiness. Lin and co-writer Hermes Liu also play up the role of the Cat Girl in the original film, with pop idol Gemma Wu providing adorable comic relief as a self-obsessed pop star who writes hilariously bad pop songs with names like Kitty Bomb.
More than Blue delivers exactly what its Chinese title (“A Story that Is Sadder than Sadness”) implies: A profoundly sad love story about secrets, sacrifice and a kind of selfless love that almost only appears in the movies. It’s an unabashedly commercial – and often moving – melodrama with a handsome cast, beautiful visuals and wistful pop songs, all designed to take its audiences through the gamut of human emotions before it makes their tear ducts involuntarily give in. It’s no surprise that it’s become a box office hit across Asia.
There will always be cynics who bash melodramas like More than Blue for being out of touch with reality or for being overly emotionally manipulative, but the film provides exactly what fans of the genre want. Despite being constrained by the source material (the remake adheres closely to the original story with only a few small deviations), Lin manages to tweak just enough to fit the taste of his target audience without sacrificing the elements that made the original film so beloved by its fans. More than Blue isn’t a game changer in the tearjerker genre, but it’s a strong entry that will satisfy audiences that need a good cry.