The Other Woman
The first few minutes will probably hit the raw nerve of anyone who got enraged by the irresponsible behaviour of fast car drivers here. We see two cars driven by rich kids who think of nothing except flooring the accelerators of their sports cars, even under inclement weather conditions, coupled with fooling around with the opposite sex, before tragedy hits when they get into an accident by hitting a passer-by. And as if not bad enough, one of them proceeds to finish the job. After all, it is said that punishment for a hit-and-run perpetrator is lighter if the victim succumbs to the injuries, rather than to survive the ordeal.
Just when you think that Mystery would circle around the story of each of those who were involved, the narrative shifts in broad strokes. Based on story found in internet forums, Lou Ye's film actually deals with hell having known no fury than that of a woman scorned. Or make that women. It aims squarely at issues of extra marital affairs, and the trouble that one's indiscretion would bring about across all families involved in one's insatiable lust. It also skirted around highlights involving the single child policy, and how a male heir played some importance especially to the older generation. Which I thought was rather interesting if you'd put yourself in the shoes of the male protagonist under a society as such, although his wild behavioural swings isn't something that can be condoned.
At first glance, it seemed that Qiao Yongzhao (Qin Hao) is leading the successful life, with a good career, nice apartment, wife Lu Jie (Hao Lei) and child. But who would have thought that these were insufficient, and slowly we learn more about what's actually behind his success due to family connections, and his frustrations that manifest through a series of affairs. Lu Jie befriends the mother of her daughter's classmate, and it's not before long that Sang Qi (Qi Xi) confides in her about her husband's affair. Connect the dots, and very soon the film becomes a tale of jealous vengeance, ever ready to see how far it could stretch.
But while everything will be settled in a closed loop especially with yet another police investigative subplot thrown in for good measure (I suppose with Chinese films, you cannot have the law ignore crimes that have been commited, and how these investigations must almost always turn out positively to an extent, which makes the narrative fairly predictable), what was interesting was the character of Yongzhao, being very two-faced in the way he conducts himself between the two families, in a way, knowing very well not to bite the hands that feed him. The narrative moves up a notch when there's a direct confrontation, since it becomes a lot more explosive rather than to dwell and contemplate on the next move on the chess board.
While the film tries to adopt this very detached, documentary like examination into the lives of the characters, it was especially jarring with the handheld, shaky camera treatment, and on many occasions I was silently begging the cinematographer to mount the camera on a tripod, or stabilizer. It detracts one from getting into the story, and was mildly irritating each time the camera moved for no apparent reason other than just because it was hand held. If there could be one aspect that would make this film more bearable, it would be this.
Otherwise perhaps Lou Ye wanted us to feel the same discomfort as the characters in this bleak and grim story, where everything was in a shade of grey, in the morals of the story as well as the way the film got lit and coloured, with plenty of rain to dampen any chirpy mood. If miserableness was what should be conveyed through the film to an audience, then this would be a great success.