Before We Fall in Love Again was shown free at the Goethe-Institut as the free programme schedule for the SIFF draws to a close. Tomorrow, the event proper begins with the Opening Film Sankara. Malaysian writer-director James Lee's follow up to this movie, Things We Do When We Fall in Love, is part of the SIFF's official selection, and somehow I'm regretting a little if the tone of the follow up to his Love series is anything like this one.
The. characters. speak. like. that. and. only. after. long. pauses. To put it simply, it's excruciating slow, and for someone who likes their images peppered with sound, there is a void of background music to cue your emotions. You do not know whether to feel sorry for the characters, or ridicule them for some of the weirdness they exhibit. It's not an easy movie to sit through, especially when the material to begin with seemed forcibly put on screen. Some scenes were too long, and at times felt unnecessary in order to stretch its length.
Don't get me wrong, I thought the story was fine, but the delivery could have been improved. Before We Fall in Love Again tells the story of two men and the same woman they love. One, the husband (played by Chye Chee Keong), who's at a lost, trying to find out where his wife disappeared to, without a word. The other, the wife's lover Tong, played by musician Pete Teo, who looks up the husband to talk about Ling Yue's (Len Siew Mee) disappearance.
It's an interesting character piece where the two male leads interact and discovery slowly, just who the love of their life really is like. As one character puts it, it's a meeting of the cuckold and the loverboy, as their stories about Ling Yue unfold through a series of flashbacks. The camera stays pretty still for the most parts, and shots are medium to long, putting the audience into the shoes of voyeurs as we observe from afar, the love triangle between the three. I believe this is one of the rare films I've watched where the woman is actually the player, though one of the two guys isn't any saint himself.
As I mentioned earlier, those who prefer their movies with background music, and plenty of snappy dialogue, might want to steer clear of this black and white movie. Unfolding primarily in a period of a single day/night, the narrative contained at times some funny moments, but nothing truly genuine for laughs. Certain scenes do get repetitive, and it seemed to have a liking to focus on the mundane (brushing of teeth anyone?). The final act seemed to have cramped too much into too little, introducing a couple of side characters on the fly without much tie in to the main plot.
Your despair for the movie to end will parallel the emotions that the characters feel for their dilemma to come to closure. I hope the follow up movie will pick up the pace a bit.